GMCD 7114 – Cello & Piano Music by John Mayer, Edmund Rubbra, Benjamin Britten
Timothy Gill – Cello, Fali Pavri – Piano
Classic CD: February 1996
Previously I had thought Rubbra’s sonata rather dull but here’s an example of how persuasive exponents can really bring the merits of a work to your attention – Timothy Gill and Fali Pavri elicit a searing lyricism; bringing a tremendous sense of direction to the melodic invention which can so easily meander in lesser hands – Whilst the first movement is possibly the most compelling; the finale complete with fugue is quite a tour-de force of compositional ingenuity.
Similarly; their interpretation of Britten’s Sonata is well characterised with clean articulation and a clear sense of the music’s pithy and varied moods. The performance may not be on the level of Rostropovich and Britten’s legendary account, lacking perhaps the extra degree of colour and dynamic shading, but is nonetheless extremely committed.
As a contrast to the two sonatas by established British composers, this duo performs two premieres of music by John Mayer. Prabhanda seeming the more substantial work. It’s and intriguing mix of Indian-inspired melodic material and rhythms, within the broad context of primarily Western musical language. However; I found the more overtly Indian pieces more effective. The piano suite; a portrait of the city of Calcutta; seems less convincing; although some of the miniatures convey with almost graphic realism the atmosphere of metropolitan life.
An imaginative programme shaped by keen interpretative insight
Alternatives: Britten – Rostropovich/Britten (Decca)
Gramophone: March 1996
This most accomplished, enterprising concert is performed with consistent sensitivity and much quiet insight. Perhaps the highlight is Edmund Rubbra’s gloriously ruminative and beautifully crafted Cello Sonata of 1946, here given a reading which strikes a perfect balance between formal elegance and gentle passion.
In the Britten Sonata, Timothy Gill and his pianist Fali Pavri adopt a more restrained, less commandingly articulate approach than either Rostropovich and the composer on Decca (still peerlessly eloquent and sounding superbly full-bodied 35 years on) or Moray Welsh and John Lenehan (who form an impressive partnership on EMI – part of that company’s somewhat variable Anglo-American Chamber Music Series). That said, these gifted young artists undoubtedly have the full measure of this work’s considerable technical demands, and their playing exhibit unfailing musicality and dedication. I enjoyed the vigour of their “Marcia” and “Moto perpetuo”, yet by the side of the characterful, extraordinarily flexible Rostropovich/Britten account, the opening “Dialogo” inevitably sounds a little lacking in sheer concentration and crackling intensity (no disgrace in that, of course).
The new disc also contains two offerings by the Calcutta-born figure, John Mayer (a composition pupil of Matyas Seiber). Prabhanda for cello and piano dates from 1982. It is an approachable piece in eight movements which manages to combine Indian and Western musical element to colourful and emotionally diverse effect (the title is an ancient Indian musical form not dissimilar to our own Suite). Gill and Pavri lend exemplary advocacy to this attractive creation. Inspired by “the incredibly contrasting sights and sounds” (to quote the excellent, uncredited booklet-notes) of Mayer’s home city, the suite for solo piano from 1993 entitled Calcutta-Nagar (“City of Calcutta) consist of 18 vignettes, most of them pithy in the extreme, yet all exquisitely chiselled and often highly evocative: try the soothing “Kali Temple” (track 29) or bustling “Hooghley River” (track 30). Suffice to report the composer’s fellow countryman, Fali Pavri is an outstandingly sympathetic interpreter.
Sound and balance are good, although in the Britten Sonata especially, there were times when I craved a rather sharper focus. Background traffic rumble also intrudes from time to time, but not enough to spoil this particular listener’s pleasure.