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Out of the Shadow

Lucia Swarts (cello), Elena Malinova (piano) (Challenge Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Out of the Shadow
Works by Bonis, Bosmans, L Boulanger, Fanny Mendelssohn and C Schumann
Lucia Swarts (cello), Elena Malinova (piano)
Challenge Classics CC 72888   49:30 mins

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Emerging Out of the Shadow are pieces by five female composers all of which, writes cellist Lucia Swarts, ‘show feelings that come straight from the heart’. This satisfying recital thus opens with an arrangement of Clara Schumann’s Drei Romanzen and ends with Fanny Mendelssohn’s Fantasia in G minor and Capriccio in A flat major, all in sensitive, warm performances.

Away from those familiar names, there’s the Dutch composer and pianist Henriette Bosmans, whose music sits happily at the intersection of German Romanticism and French impressionism. Born to a Jewish mother and Catholic father, her music was banned by the Nazis, but her three-movement Impressions pre-dates that horrific chapter in her life. Her writing is muscular and direct, as is the performance, moving from a propulsive ‘Cortège’ to the serene ‘Nuit de calme’ before ending in the energetic ‘En Espagne’.

But the best comes from Lili Boulanger. D’un soir triste sounds as if it could be a delightful Elgarian salon work; yet the French composer is at her most profound in this ten-minute piece, written towards the end of World War I, not long before her death at the age of 24. Boulanger’s harmonic language, with its clustered chords, points to the future, but it’s her mastery of tension and pace that really tells in this performance. She left several arrangements of the piece, including for orchestra, but Swarts makes a strong case for this cello and piano version, revelling in her instrument’s darker colours.

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Rebecca Franks