ALBUM TITLE: Cassadoó, Kodaály
WORKS: Kodály: Solo Cello Sonata, Op. 8; Duo, Op. 7*; Cassadó: Suite for cello
PERFORMER: Antonio Meneses (cello); with *Claudio Cruz (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2351
Antonio Meneses is truly the bel canto hero of the cello world: no matter how virtuosic or gnarly the music, he sings it with a sonorous beauty of tone and uncompromised resonance only achieved by a chosen few. In Cassadó’s dark, sensuous Suite, inspired by Kodály but infused with Spanish undertones, he exudes a mesmerising, Zen-like calm: tenderly shaped curlicues, ornate arabesques, and complex harmonic accompanying figurations never disturb his long, arching lines or the sense of easy, improvisational charm. You can almost forget you’re listening to a virtuoso display; in his refreshingly self-effacing, idiomatic approach musical substance is always to the fore.
His Kodály Solo Sonata is the polar opposite of that recently released by Alisa Weilerstein (reviewed March 2015): while she draws on a hard-edged aggression to drive her through its tortuous thickets, Meneses presents a grand-scale vision of the work with unhurried poise and an exceptional consistency of sound. When I say ‘unhurried’, this is actually faster than Weilerstein’s performance, but missing that feverish sense of struggle that is, you could argue, embedded in the score. Not surprisingly, his lofty, luminous Adagio is the most powerful, while we miss some earthy wildness in the Allegro molto vivace, that febrile propulsion which keeps each sequence airborne. (Of recent recordings, Tim Hughes’s extraordinary 2008 live performance on Naim CD118 is the one, for me, that best achieves breath-taking control on a wave of fiery energy.) In Kodály’s remarkable Duo, Meneses performs hand-in-glove with violinist Claudio Cruz, who shares his free, warmly lyrical approach, building to a thrilling Presto finale.