Britten: Cello Suite No. 1; Kodály: Cello Sonata; Ligeti: Cello Sonata
Nuala McKenna (cello)
Cobra COBRA 0078 68:56 mins
Another lockdown, another solo cello album: this is from enterprising young Nuala McKenna, principal cellist of Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, who has used the opportunity to gather a trio of mighty works.
Her ‘take’ on Britten’s First Suite is strikingly contemporary: each movement is reimagined almost as an improvisatory soundscape. The sound recording itself is something of a work of art, the reverberant acoustic carefully controlled, the sound saturated, each articulation caught in close-up. There’s a tendency to slow things down, to ensure every resonance is given its due, as if put under a sonic microscope: the bare simplicity which make the ‘Cantos’ so touching are replaced by something ambient, congested, which threatens the sense of line, while the ‘Marcia’ is almost too slow for a human step. On the plus side, her ‘Serenata’ is glamorous, a sexy flamenco guitar with attitude.
While there’s a strong sense of a musical personality commanding the space, you begin to wonder whether some speeds are chosen for physical ease. Such thoughts are dispelled by a whirlwind Moto perpetuo finale. Her Ligeti has piquant character, though pales beside the dazzling account given by Christian-Pierre La Marca (reviewed last month). It takes guts to tackle the Kodály, but she has the measure of it and the range of colours. As in the Britten, speeds can be too careful, but her Allegro hits you between the eyes: here is an artist with presence. I would go to hear that live.