Northern Cello
Music by Grieg, Sibelius et al
Zöe Knighton vc, Ian Munro p
Move MD3420

Cellist Zoë Knighton and pianist Ian Munro have united to bring us Northern Cello, a fittingly titled release presenting the works of four Northern European composers.

Grieg’s Cello Sonata in A Minor is infused with burgeoning energy and elation alike. As agitated as its Allegro agitato may be, Knighton still hints at moments of calm – a lullaby set against droplets of piano. The Andante molto tranquillo is bravely vulnerable and homely. Although it’s a minor-key work the duo leaves us with a feeling of optimism. It’s magnificently paired with the composer’s Elegiac Melodies, Op. 34. The latter opens with the slow melodic plod of the Herzwunden, before the glorious emotional strains of Letzter Frühling.

Sibelius’ Four Pieces for Cello and Piano, Op. 78, offers a refreshing layer within the release – his Romance strengthening the passion before a docile Religioso, and a subtle Rigaudon to close.

Vasks’ Gramata Cellam for solo cello is a jarring addition. My ears appreciate the change in timbre after Knighton’s admirable consistency but the work is oddly placed. Nevertheless, the Pianissimo dolcissimo’s drone-like bass notes are remarkable under a haunting melody which weaves in and out of the space around it.

With this we transition brilliantly to Pärt’s Fratres, in which Knighton’s power is released and Munro’s control revealed. On first listen, this album appears a mild one – but its deeper undertones are magnificently unsettling.