Songs of the Cello – Homage to Pablo Casals
Taeguk Mun & Chi Ho Han (Warner Classics)
Songs of the Cello: Homage to Pablo Casals
Beethoven: Cello Sonata in A; JS Bach: Solo Cello Suite No. 1 in G; plus works by Schumann, Schubert, Rubinstein and Casals
Taeguk Mun (cello), Chi Ho Han (piano)
Warner Classics 9029563313 59:02 mins
Young Korean cellist Taeguk Mun is winner of the 2014 Pablo Casals International Cello Competition and the $25,000 Janos Starker Foundation Award in 2016. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that this perfectly attractive programme, Songs of the Cello, has been linked to Casals. Mun’s playing is fastidious and elegant to a fault, a very far cry indeed from the high-voltage, soul-searching earthiness of his hero.
Comparisons aside, though, the recital reveals two highly accomplished and sensitive musicians. Mun’s G major Bach Suite has an easy fluency, garnished with some idiomatic ornaments in the repeats which never sound overdone. His speeds are also judicious, with few extremes. Though there’s a dancing quality throughout, there’s also a slight sense of playing it safe. Pianist Chi Ho Han injects a sparky energy into the Beethoven Sonata in A major, reminding us how quickly its broadly smiling A major theme darkens into a world of shadowy pain. This is a gripping interpretation of the Allegro ma non tanto; the finale is also impressively debonair, even if they don’t manage to open up that visionary space inherent in the Andante cantabile. Only the song transcriptions are disappointing: Schubert’s ‘An die Musik’ should never be treated as an afterthought, nor Casals’s ‘El cant dels ocells’ as less than an exile’s anguished cry.