Spanish and Italian music for solo cello

Gold Medal winning album:  2018 Global Music Awards

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Album notes by the performer:

A protégé of the great Catalan cellist Pablo “Pau” Casals, and a world-class virtuoso in his own right, Gaspar Cassadó drew inspiration for his “Suite for Solo Cello” from the cello suites by J.S. Bach. Cassadó’s Suite features idiomatic writing reminiscent of the Fandango and Flamenco guitar styles central to Spanish musical culture. He sets the technical bar high for cellists with his unprecedented use of complex harmonics and frequent blocked chords. The Sardana movement, following the Fantasia prelude and preceding the Fandango-like finale, represents a dance from Cassadó’s native Catalonia, a province in northeastern Spain. Francisco Franco, Spain’s Fascist dictator from 1939 to 1975, attempted to suppress Catalan culture in favor of Spanish heritage by outlawing the Sardana along with other Catalan traditions.

The Catalan folk carol “Song of the Birds,” which follows Cassadó’s Suite on this recording, was a childhood favorite of Casals. He performed the song frequently while living in exile from his homeland in protest of Franco’s regime. The next track, Isaac Albéniz’s “Asturias,” is a stowaway on this album. Originally written for piano, and performed by generations of guitarists, Haines-Eitzen arranges it here for solo cello to supplement the sparse repertoire of unaccompanied cello music written by 19th and 20th century Spanish composers.

Moving backward in time, the Toccatas of Francesco Paulo Scipriani are rarely heard works by an obscure Italian contemporary of J.S. Bach. While names like Vivaldi, Tartini, and Paganini, read like a violinists’ Hall of Fame, Italian cellists of the 17th and 18th centuries are much less familiar. The Scipriani Toccatas and Capriccios of Giuseppe dall’Abaco offer a pleasant change of pace from Bach’s revered (and often performed) cello suites. In the spirit of the period in which they were written, These renditions feature the cello tuned down a half-step to ‘A’ = 415 Hz and add double stops and embellishments.

The CD closes with Sonata G. 6 in C major for cello and continuo by Luigi Boccherini, a prolific Italian cellist and composer who lived for most of his career in Spain under royal patronage. This piece displays the Rococo charm and virtuosity present in much of Boccherini’s music. He was famously eager to fill in for ailing violinists, and in this sonata Boccherini characteristically expands the historical range of the cello upward into the violin register.

Recorded in Portal, Arizona, December 10-12, 2016 Royer R122-MKII microphones, MS pattern.

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