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Classical Music Review

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Composers: Johannes Brahms, György Ligeti and Dmitri Shostakovich
Performed by: John-Henry Crawford (cello) and Victor Santiago Asuncion (piano)
Label: Orchard Classics
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 04 June 2021

Orchid Classics releases Dialogo, the debut album of cellist John-Henry Crawford, First Prize Winner of the IX International Carlos Prieto Cello Competition and the Classical Recording Foundation’s 2019 Young Artist of the Year. Playing a rare 200-year-old cello smuggled out of Austria by his grandfather, Robert Popper, Crawford performs Brahms’ Sonata for Piano and Cello No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99 and Shostakovich’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor, Op. 40 with pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion, as well as Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Cello, all recorded and engineered by Grammy Award-winning engineer Adam Abeshouse...

Discussing the album, Crawford says: "This program explores several different modes of a concept that is vital to the fabric of our lives, our relationships, and even the progress of our society as a whole - dialogue. The opening movement of the Ligeti Sonata, titled 'Dialogo', is an ideal musical encapsulation of this theme and the inspiration behind the title of the album.

"This concept is equally present in the sonatas with piano by Brahms and Shostakovich. After the grandiose introduction in Brahms’ Op. 99 sonata, the two instruments pass off contrapuntal lines in a flowing ‘conversation.’"

"Finally, in the Shostakovich, we are exposed to a different mode of dialogue that, similar to Ligeti’s Sonata, was born out of life events. Having fallen in love with a young translator, Shostakovich and his wife divorced for a time after she became aware of the affair. This D minor sonata was written during that period of separation and reflects Shostakovich’s frame of mind."

While it's not overly important to know what links these pieces, it's interesting to discover the thought process that has gone into why these three pieces fit so neatly together. Dialogue is something that the recent Covid pandemic has brought to the fore. Not being able to meet loved ones face to face has resulted in the realisation that ongoing dialogue - when you're sitting with loved ones, friends or even complete strangers - is something we've all taken for granted... And, when that's limited in some way, cracks in the way we socialise start to appear.

The performances are well polished, but not to the point where it feels like Crawford is just going through the motions. There's heart and soul lavished upon the delivery and the artists love of the material shines through.

A lovingly crafted album.

Track listing:

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Sonata for Piano and Cello No. 2 in F Major, Op. 99
01. I Allegro vivace
02. II Adagio affettuoso
03. III Allegro passionate
04. IV Allegro molto

György Ligeti (1923-2006)
Sonata for Solo Cello
05. I Dialogo
06. II Capriccio

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor, Op. 40
07. I Allegro non troppo
08. II Allegro
09. III Largo
10. IV Allegro


Darren Rea

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