Tesla Quartet: Haydn, Ravel, Stravinsky
A glorious performance of Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major is alone worth the price of the debut album from the Tesla Quartet. Haydn, Ravel, Stravinsky showcases the foursome’s especial affinity with the French composer. The Tesla musicians nimbly balance delicate romanticism with modernistic gestures in Ravel’s music.
Similarly, they stress the airy warmth in Haydn’s String Quartet in C Major, Op. 54 No. 2. There’s something 21st-century about their light approach to the Vivace first movement. The hymnlike, almost funereal Adagio has a 19th-century Romantic flavor. And all of this sounds quite natural. The Menuetto feels perhaps a bit rhythmically overstretched, but the finale is satisfying and surprising, by turns fleet and solemn.
Three Menuets by Ravel, ably transcribed by Tesla violinist Ross Snyder, provide the album’s thematic connective tissue. “Menuet antique,” the most substantial, is particularly winning. Rounding out the disc, the quartet plays Stravinsky’s single-movement Concertino for String Quartet with percolating gusto. It’s altogether a strong debut. Haydn, Ravel, Stravinsky is available now.
Amit Peled: Bach Suites 1-3
The historic 1733 Goffriller cello once owned and played by Pablo Casals is now in the talented hands of Amit Peled. The cellist recently released his new recording of J.S. Bach’s Cello Suites No. 1-3. Casals himself recorded this music in 1936, helping in the process to popularize the works as standalone standards. Today they are almost de rigeur for every violoncello soloist.
Once again this particular instrument welcomes a great musician for Bach’s epic solo sequence. Beautifully recorded for CTM Classics, the album reinforces Peled’s credentials as one of our finest contemporary musicians. There’s nothing groundbreaking in his interpretations of the first three Cello Suites, but there needn’t be. They do have a freshness and buoyancy that’s an absolute delight.
His touch is an almost magical fusion of firmness and cantabile lightness. It shines clearly in pieces like the Menuett of Suite No. 1. I appreciate the way he doesn’t schmaltz up the Prélude of No. 2, instead letting the music itself speak its volumes.
Conversely, he gives a somehow nimble gravitas to the Gigue of No. 2. He gets daringly dramatic with the chords of the Prélude of No. 3 and longingly lyrical with that suite’s Sarabande. Yet he achieves all this variety, all this colorful emotion, with a consistently sweet, sanguine tone.
If you are a Bach or cello aficionado you might think you have enough recordings, or have heard enough performances, of the Bach cello suites. Do not pass on this one, available now.
See also my review of Amit Peled’s Brahms album recorded on the same instrument.