Playing the cello is, at the end of the day, a pretty good gig. Not only are cellists spared (what seem to us to be) unnatural contortions of our necks and arms, we’re also the beneficiaries of some of the best music in the world. Whether it’s because of the user-friendly format of the instrument itself or the wealth of spectacular repertoire, the music world has never lacked a wide variety of sparkling talents on the cello. This spring, London-based independent label Cello Classics will issue two new albums that highlight the cello’s rich heritage in both repertoire and talent.
Cello Classics, founded in 2001 by British cellist Sebastian Comberti, is a label that is dedicated to illuminating the depth of the cello’s repertoire and artistic legacy as expressed by the great cellists. The label not only records the standard artists and pieces that most musicians and cellists know–it also seeks to uncover and introduce great works and great cellists who may be less well-known to their own community. Says Comberti, “Having been involved in the cataloguing of a major private collection of both printed music and recorded archive material, I became aware that there was a wealth of material, much of it unknown even to fellow cellists. It became apparent to me that this rich seam would merit the attention of lovers of the cello worldwide, and thus the decision was taken to launch a label devoted to the cello and its great exponents of the past. Despite the many existing cello recordings, there is still a lot of wonderful music which needs to be recorded–and many great cellists.”
The spring discs on the Cello Classics label are perfect representatives of Comberti’s mission statement. The first, entitled “Julius Klengel: A Celebration,” features a wide-ranging collaboration between 14 cellists to present the gems of Klengel’s compositional oeuvre. As a cellist, composer and influential pedagogue, Klengel’s musial descendants include Piatigorsky, Feuermann, Suggia and Pleeth, who went on to produce important students of their own. All the artists on this recording have given their services in aid of MS Research, a charity much associated with the late Jacqueline du Pré (1945-87), grand-pupil of Julius Klengel. The repertoire on the CD includes the rarely recorded and performed Capriccio and the 12-cello favorite “Hymnus,” as well as recordings of standard repertoire as played by Klengel himself.
The second new album on the label features the playing of Keith Harvey and is entitled “Dedications…A Life in Music.” Keith Harvey, the legendary British, Emmy-winning cellist, has been at the forefront of the United Kingdom’s cello tradition for more than 50 years. As the youngest ever principal cellist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Harvey went on to found the Gabrielli String Quartet. He also, as principal cellist of the English Chamber Orchestra, worked with musicians such as Benjamin Britten, Raymond Leppard, Daniel Barenboim, Geza Anda and Clifford Curzon. According to Cello Classics, “This 2 cd set features 37 tracks, many of which are arrangements by Keith Harvey, each dedicated to one of the many influences and inspirations in a life-time of music making.” The album features a dizzying array of works by Achron, Bach/Busoni, Brahms, Canteloube, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Chopin, Debussy, Duparc, Elgar, Gershwin, Glière, Grieg, Hallfter, Monteverdi, Nin, Paganini, Poldini, Prokofiev, Purcell, Ravel, Reger, and Ries.
Both albums serve to enrich the volume and quality of the cello’s legacy, as an instrument and as a vehicle for performance–check them out and see what you discover!