St Andrew’s lunchtime concerts
Inbal Megiddo (cello) and Jian Liu (piano)
Music by Boccherini, Manuel de Falla, Mendelssohn and David Popper
St Andrew’s on The Terrace
Wednesday 30 October, 12:15 pm
A larger than usual audience came in from the sun to hear these two members of the music faculty of Victoria University (known as the New Zealand School of Music).
They began with one of Boccherini’s cello sonatas: one on A major. A look at the Boccherini catalogue shows 29 cello ‘sonatas, for cello solo (and basso)’, which is believed to mean probably a second cello; most were written when he was young. Of those, two are in A major, the second of which (No 13) was one of the few published in his life-time (unauthorised by the composer according to the programme notes). However, there’s one in A major that is played by several cellists on YouTube: listed as G. 4 or No 6. Coming across these a few days after the recital, I doubt that this is what Megiddo played.
In any case it was clear at the start why this one has been found worthy of attention today. The music was distinctive and satisfyingly varied through its two movements, and Megiddo played authoritatively, nimbly and with a keen ear to its style and musical substance; this was an interesting, melodious piece that whets the appetite to hear more. As several writers have remarked, though Boccherini has attracted much more attention in the past couple of decades, his very large body of worthwhile music including a dozen cello concertos, is still seriously neglected.
That was followed by Manuel de Falla’s Suite populaire espagnole which is an arrangement of Siete canciones populares españolas (‘seven Spanish popular songs’ – the second song, ‘Seguidilla murciana’, was left out of the arrangements that have been made for various instruments). They are widely different in character, a factor in their wide popularity; but they also offer very rewarding opportunity for other musicians, and Megiddo and Liu made flamboyant, colourful yet sensitive use of them. Though my first impression was that the cello didn’t capture all the sparkle and dancing character of pieces like the ‘Jota’ and the ‘Canción’, it created a different, more mature character. Jian Liu’s piano made a bigger contribution in these pieces, particularly distinctive in the ‘Polo’.
A Song Without Words
One of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words was written for cello and piano, not, like all the others, for piano alone. He published eight books of Songs Without Words for solo piano, six in each, plus some others not published in his lifetime: Decca has recorded a ‘complete’ edition totally 56 pieces. Op 109 was written two years before his early death aged 38. I was surprised to find this lovely piece quite familiar, though I had not been aware of its source; typically charming and played most expressively.
Liszt was not the only composer of Hungarian Rhapsodies; David Popper, Czech cellist, was a prolific composer, mainly for the cello. (I still have a relatively easy piece, Gavotte No 2, Op 23, that I played as a student). His Nocturne No 4 (Op 47) and Hungarian Rhapsody, Op 68 made a nice pair. The Nocturne was quite long with a prominent, interesting piano part, showing Popper as much more than merely a cello virtuoso. The Hungarian Rhapsody prompted the word ‘expostulation’ in my notes, and was a pretty spectacular piece, quite as bravura in style as Liszt’s pieces with the same name, and as startling to watch as to listen to.