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Fascinating Unique Works for Cello & Piano


(b)romance Canellakis-Brown Duo Nicholas Cannellakis, cello.Michael Stephen Brown, piano First Hand Records 134 Total Time:  67:39 Recording:   ****/****Performance: ****/****


The Cannellakis-Brown Duo has been performing together for the better part of fifteen years now.  In this new release, they have chosen a varied program of works that show off their musical partnership well.  The selections feature a variety of pieces that blend slightly familiar classics with delightful surprises.  Accompanying notes provide some additional personal context for the engaging program that follows.

After a gorgeous opening performance of the Saint-Saens Romance, Op. 36, the first surprises appear.  First is a rather exhilarating work by Lukas Foss, Capriccio (1948), which receives an enthusiastic performance.  It is followed by a rare piece by Copland, a Poeme (1918) in which the young composer is firmly under the spell of impressionism.  This, and a new transcription of Debussy’s Beau Soir (by Cannellakis), surround a romance from Clara Schumann’s piano concerto.  Also gorgeous is the impassioned Sibelius piece, Malinconia, Op. 20 (1900) and the Faure Romance, Op 69 (1894).  The rhythmic virtuosity also can come to the forefront in the intense Pampeana No. 2, Op. 21 (1950) of Ginastera and the jazz-influenced closing pieces on the album: a new transcription of the Gershwin 3 Preludes and Don Ellis’ Bulgarian Bulge (1969).  There are also two new pieces by Brown (Prelude and Dance; and 35 Chords for Nick) and a Romance by Cannellakis that are reminders of their close working relationship that extends to these creative endeavors.  The central portion of the disc moves into more dissonant, extended language which provides a nice contrast to the more romantically-tinged pieces.

The album takes us on a wonderful journey through these various musical styles.  Cannellakis has a warm, inviting tone and his technique in the more rapid moments allow to show off his virtuosic abilities.  Brown also serves well as an accompanist with equal interpretive gestures to match the cello lines while also helping provide extra structural shape to the music.  The stylistic shifts are handled equally well in this carefully-chosen program. 

Overall this is a quite engaging release, beautifully recorded and played, even if its title is a bit much.


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