Slavic Soul - Arias, Rodiles
Eudora Records EUD-SACD-2106
Classical - Chamber
Dohnanyi: Cello Sonata
Shostakovich: Cello Sonata
Fernando Arias (cello)
Noelia Rodiles (piano)
Cellist Fernando Arias and pianist Noelia Rodiles team up for this recording, portraying 30 years of Slavic masterpieces for this combination: From the still neglected Dohnányi’s Sonata, op.8 to one of 20th Century’s chamber music masterpieces: Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata op. 40. Intense and brilliant performances in this album which also includes Janacek’s gem “Pohadka”.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - December 4, 2021
Ernst von Dohnányi is by all evidence an unjustly underrated composer. His piano and violin concerti are hard to find. The “Variations on a Nursery Song” (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) for piano and orchestra - a jewel of wit and invention - fares better, but in the high-resolution domain, hardly anything of this concertante music worth its salt is available. A shame, really. I have all three in the ‘old’ red book CD format and I can assure readers that despite Dohnányi having been greatly belittled by the communist Hungarian government after the Second World War and having had the bad luck to face innovators of the Viennese School capturing at the time everyone’s attention, they are as good as any late-romantic composers’ output,
As regards his chamber music, there is a wider choice. But even that part of his oeuvre remains a thinly wooded forest in the recording studios and public venues. We must, therefore, be grateful for Eudora having recorded Von Dohnányi’s cello sonata Op. 8 under optimal conditions.
Some time ago I had the pleasure of reviewing Noelia Rodiles’ first release for the Eudora label (The Butterfly Effect), but her cello partner, Fernando Arias, is new to me. Notwithstanding his appearances outside Spain (according to the liner notes) we have here another Spanish star who needs and merits wider recognition. As a matter of unexpected fact, the more I sample goodies from Eudora’s treasure trove, the more I realize that not only Dohnániy’s music but also Spain’s wealth of first-rate musicians is largely neglected.
The turn of the siècle sonata (1899) is written in what may be called Brahmsian style. Typical food for Central-European artists, one might say. A mistake. I was impressed by the way a Spanish cellist was able to soak up the Hungarian soul of the music. With the competent support from Noelia Rodiles at the grand piano, the quality of Fernando Arias’ interpretation comes close to that of Michal Kaňka (Praga Digitals) but with a more southern flair. And the cherry on the cake is that with the reality of Gonzalo Noqué’s superlative engineering, this time assisted by Tom Caulfield, the performance leaves much of the competition in its wake.
We may quarrel about Von Dohnányi’s “Slavic Soul”, but Leoš Janáček ‘Pohádka’ sonata does qualify. This remarkable piece, not in terms of length nor popularity, but, and such is its ‘fairy’ power, in terms of musical impact, represents the summit of Janáček’s creative mind. Rarely heard and rarely played, this little gem comes to life in and under the hands of Fernando Arias & Noelia Rodiles.
The final sonata is signed Dmitri Shostakovich. Competition is stiff. On SACD Pieter Wispelwey leads the race by a fair margin. But then again, in the final analysis, buying is also a choice of repertoire; usually a collector’s headache if not to say nightmare. If Dohnányi is the one you want, you get a Shostakovich in an interpretation that can stand up against a good deal of other fine ones, whilst, in terms of recorded quality, it is better than most.
A good friend of mine once told me: “Playing the cello is a matter of taking care of the instrument as though it is part of you. If you do, the instrument will shine and sing and mirror your intentions”. Such was my intuitive feeling, too, when I listened to the way Fernando handled his instrument. Compared to Alexander Chaushian (BIS) he brought extra life and light to the score. And whilst in the hands of Chaushian the third movement ‘Largo’ meant no more than what it says, Fernando Arias was able to build tension, and hence captivate the listener’s attention from beginning to end. Quite remarkable.
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France
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