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Inspirales - CC1030


Hillel Zori - cello
Arnon Erez - piano


The Israeli-born Hillel Zori, renowned as the cellist of the Israel Piano Trio, and a past winner of several international competitions, has devised a programme featuring works written and inspired by the great cellist-composers of the past, from Fitzenhagen and Popper, to Tortelier and Rostropovich.

Zori himself contributes a dazzling “Carmeniana’ based on Bizet’s Carmen, which here receives a World Premiere recording.  

The works on this CD:

  • Georges Bizet/Zori Carmeniana
    Aragonaise, [2:24]
    Habanera, [2.47]
    Nocturno [4:41]
    Seguedilla [1:47]
    Dance Boheme [2:24]
  • Paul TortelierSaxe [2:03]
  • David Popper Serenade [3:22]
  • Wilhelm Fitzenhagen Capriccio [4:26]
  • Hans Bottermund/Starker Paganini Variations [5:45]
  • Joachim Stutschewsky Dance Orientale [3:50]
  • David Popper Spinning Song [2:28]
  • Gaspar Cassadò Suite for solo cello
    Preludio-Fantasia [5:19]
    Sardana [4:15]
    Intermezzo e Danza Finale [5:08]
  • Mstislav Rostropovich Humoresque [1:58]
  • Paul Tortelier Spirales [2:06]
  • Gaspar Cassadò Dance of the green devil [3:33]
  • David Popper Barcarole Vénetienne [4:02]
  • Alfredo Piatti Tarantella [3:43]

Sound Clip (mp3):
Seguedilla (excerpt)

REVIEW by Maria Nockin

Hillel Zori wrote his Carmeniana, Suite Brilliant, after searching in vain for a cello composition on the themes from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen. He deliberately wrote it in 19th-century virtuoso style and originally he orchestrated it for its premiere in Israel. He reduced that version to cello and piano for this recording in 2010.

Paul Tortelier (1914–1990), who was selected by Pablo Casals to be principal cellist of the Prades Festival Orchestra, composed some demanding, atmospheric pieces for his instrument. His 1943 Spirales has an iridescent shimmer and his 1947Saxe calls for extended legato. Zori plays both pieces with panache and his collaborative pianist, Arnon Erez, responds with excellent technique and tonal opulence.

David Popper (1843–1913) was an outstanding cellist who wrote idiomatic music exploring the capabilities of his instrument. Although some of his larger pieces are available on other recordings, the Serenade from his op. 54 Spanish Dances, the op. 55Spinning Song, and the op. 75 Barcarolle Vénetienne are only available on this disc. The Spinning Song features some of the highest possible reaches of the cello, and the Barcarolle Vénetienne shows Popper's ability to write in Italian operatic style. Zori plays most of this music with radiant tone, but I did find his highest notes a bit thin. Erez's limpid piano tones cover any lack of color, however.

Wilhelm Fitzenhagen (1848–1890) was a German cellist who once rearranged Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme to the dismay of the composer. Like many soloists of his time, he composed music for his concerts. His Capriccio combines a soulful melody with exciting passages. One-time principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic, Hans Bottermund (1892–1949) composed a series of variations for cello on Paganini's 24th Caprice for Violin. Zori and Erez's performance is exquisite in its cool virtuosity. However, the magnificent performance by János Starker on a 1992 Delos recording still holds its place as the standard by which others can be judged.

Gaspar Cassadò i Moreu (1897–1966) was a Spanish cellist and composer whose most prolific period was the 1920s. His Cello Suite from 1926 contains a Sarabande, a native dance from Cataluña, and a Jota that brings flamenco guitar music and its singers to mind. His Dance of the Green Devil also has a Spanish ambience, but with the added influence of Cassadò's teacher, Ravel.

Most of us think of Mstislav Rostropovich (1927–2007) as a master of the cello, but like his predecessors, he also composed. He can be seen and heard playing his exceptionally demanding Humoresque on YouTube and the audio from his 1967 performance can be downloaded in MP3

All of these pieces demand incredible technical prowess from both instruments, and the soloists on this Cello Classics recording are extremely able. Most importantly, the music is incredibly listenable. The sound on this disc is good, and I recommend it to everyone who enjoys 19th- and early 20th-century cello music.

This article originally appeared in Issue 37:4 (Mar/Apr 2014) of FanfareMagazine.