Chopin: Works for Piano and Cello - Chie Hirai, Hidemi Suzuki
Classical - Chamber
Chopin: Works for Piano and Cello
Chie Hirai (fortepiano)
Hidemi Suzuki (cello)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 13, 2017
The globally respected Dutch cellist, Anner Bylsma, taught at the Royal Conservatory The Hague, giving birth (so to speak) to further cellists of world renown like Pieter Wispelwey and, indeed, Hidemi Suzuki. While Wispelwey is, like his master, equally at home on a modern as on a period instrument, Suzuki remained faithful to his first love: the baroque cello, with which he has won several awards, both as soloist and as solo player. Bylsma was the very first to play Bach’s solo sonatas on his baroque cello, Suzuki was the first to do so in Japan. He plays, as solo cellist, a prime role in Masaaki Suzuki's Bach Collegium Japan which has enriched the catalogue with the complete Bach cantatas (BIS). And he founded his own period orchestra in Japan ‘Orchestra Libera Classica’ (TDK Arte dell’ arco label), where he teaches at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.
Why all this information? Because the liner notes are exclusively in Japanese of which I, for one, understand nothing at all. I may, therefore, add a little information about his partner, Chie Hirai, as well: “Chie Hirai studied piano at the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1997 before specializing on the fortepiano under Stanley Hoogland at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague where she received her Master's Degree in 2002 with distinction”. (Copied from her web site). Looks like a ‘Dutch Connection’ to me. Mme Chie follows her own solo carreer with much acclaim and is since 2006 duo partner with Suzuki.
Their first SACD with Mendelssohn’s complete works for piano and cello (Mendelssohn: Complete Works for Piano and Cello - Hidemi Suzuki, Chie Hirai), was awarded the National Art Festival Award from the Agency for Cultural Affairs Japan, but did not get any review on this site. Should you have a chance to get it for a reasonable price, do! I have it and I think it certainly is worth your while, the more so, because there are no other ‘complete’ period performances available in Hi-res.
Completeness always has the obligatory side effect of adding stuff that would otherwise be kept in the dark. This is the case here as well. Hirai & Suzuki treat us to the fairly obscure ‘Grand duo concertant on themes of Meyerbeer’s ‘Robert le Diable’. On the official Chopin web site described as ‘one of the most marginal works in the Chopin oeuvre’. In fact it isn’t even from Chopin alone; it’s a joint effort by Chopin and his longtime French friend, Auguste Franchomme. The fact that is was dedicated to a sixteen-year-old young lady, Miss Adèle Forest, says it all. She was the daughter of an amateur cellist friend of Franchomme’s and a pupil of Chopin. ‘Une pièce de circonstance’ one might say. Nonetheless, it’s nice to have it recorded once more in super audio quality. (I remember having had it on a mono Saga Sovereign vinyl - which I no longer have - with André Navarra & Jeanne-Marie Darré, also with the objective of being complete?).
And what to think of the final work: Carl Czerny’s ‘Rondeau concertant’? Maybe the liner notes, which I cannot read, put a plausible link with Chopin to it, but I take it that it is mainly meant to fill up an otherwise meager recital. And, by the way, I have not been able to establish the correctness of the given information. Whereas the IMSLP library gives under Op. 136: ‘Sonatina for four hands’, another catalogue of Czerny’s compositions allots the same number to ‘Elegantine or Rondeau brilliant for piano’. A composition for piano and violoncello does, as such, not seem to exist. Maybe we have here an arrangement of some sort. It is not played with the same care. I left it out of my overall rating.
Does all this mean that I think that this disk has no real value? Not at all. It’s a fantastic recital by two Japanese period experts, one on the baroque cello and the other playing the piano forte, showing their true competence in two major, in the music literature often underrated works: The ‘Introduction et polonaise brillante' and the Sonata for piano and Violoncello. Especially the cello sonata, irrespective of the fact that it was composed for ‘salon’ purposes, is most persuasive in its concept. It is to be preferred to the rendition of Michal Kanka (cello) & Jaromir Klepac (piano) on Praga Digitals (Chopin, Grieg: Cello Sonatas - Kanka, Klepac), mainly because of differences in sound and depth due to a lower standard of recording. Here the ‘Dutch connection’ about which I talked in the beginning, does, indeed, add a decisive element: The recording was made in the summer of 2008 in The Netherlands in the concert hall ‘Onder de Linden’ in Valthermond, like the Mendelssohn recital (2006), and guess who did it? Jean-Marie Geijsen of Polyhymnia. This explains the high quality.
One final remark for those who want to know: Hidemi plays on his cello built by Bart Visser after Guadagnini and Chie Hirai brought her own piano, which is an 1840 Ignace Pleyel!
It would have been nice had BMG released this wonderful disk in Europe and North America as well.
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