portrait of North America’s vibrant and diverse classical music culture, with works for cello, with and without piano, performed by brothers Paul and Huw Watkins. Both eminent musicians, Paul has played with the Emerson Quartet and manages a career as a conductor, while Huw is also a notable composer. Both bring technical refinement and a keen musical touch to their performances.
Both Samuel Barber and Leonard Bernstein’s works are appealing, thanks to an attractive lyricism in the former’s case, and jazzy, eclectic beats and rhythms in that of the latter. Paul’s playing is full of passion, but also nuanced in capturing the lighter shades of both works. Elliott Carter’s Sonata for Cello and Piano was an important work for the composer, marking a crucial change away from a lyrical neoclassicism, to melodic angularity and radical rhythmic and metric invention. The pair’s performance here is as fresh and articulate as the work.
George Crumb’s Sonata for Solo Cello is an invigorating experience. The work is a masterpiece – expertly paced, passionate, with beautiful harmonic language and an authentic approach to virtuosity. It is the best demonstration of Paul’s expert musicality.
Finishing with music from Aaron Copland’s old-school American classic Billy the Kid makes for a somewhat twee sign-off – hardly the composer’s best music, but charming nonetheless.