Click to Order Recording
An enchanting, astonishing and unusual combination: the rich warmth of the cello and the delicate timbre of the guitar are perfectly attuned to each other in the hands of Maxine Neuman and Peter Ernst. This recording demonstrates beyond a doubt what surprising, exquisite rapport these seemingly incompatible instruments can achieve.
The order chosen for these recorded works was not guided by chronological or stylistic principles, but rather by the theatrical perspective of showcasing the range and beauty of this superlative partnership.
The selections include compositions originally written for this instrumentation (by Zenamon, Domeniconi and Gnattali), pieces written for instruments similar to the present combination (Schiffelholtz) or which - since not specified by the composer - one can imagine being realized by this combination (Vivaldi); the program is finally complemented by a transcription of a work originally composed for piano (Ibert).
Radames Gnattali belongs to the third generation of the Brazilian school. The guitar occupies a prominent position in his extensive Œuvre. In addition to solo compositions and six concerti with orchestra, Gnattali produced numerous pieces for chamber ensembles. Of these, the Sonata for Cello and Guitar, composed in 1969, is probably the most widely known today. Although this work in three movements is patterned on the classical sonata form, Gnattali’s use of rhythmic and harmonic elements adopted from Brazilian traditional music creates a strikingly personal musical style.
Among Antonio Vivaldi’s cello sonatas, the fifth in e minor seems to be the best-known. Vivaldi wrote most of his works for the girls residing at the Ospedale della Pietà orphanage in Venice, where he was employed in various musical capacities. The Sonatas for Cello and Continuo were apparently also composed for the young musicians there, whose considerable instrumental skills can be inferred from the rigors of these demanding compositions. The improvisation of the accompaniment based on the written figured bass line may just as well have been executed by either harp or lute as by the moretraditional harpsichord or organ.
A comparison between Jacques Ibert’s Histoires and Schumann’s Kinderszenen is hard to resist. Though both cycles are about children, they are, judging from their musical and technical demands, not intended to be played by children. Following the example of his putative model, Ibert places the titles at the end of each movement, as though these signatures were meant less to provide the public with an idea of the music than to assist the performer in determining the atmosphere and character of the work. Despite the fact that he never associated himself with any school of composition and rejected academic pretension, Jaques Ibert enjoyed the respect of his French colleagues, as evidenced by his collaborative work with Ravel, Milhaud, Roussel, among others. The contemporary musical idiom of the late Debussy never appealed to him. Instead, he preferred more accessible tonalities, as can be heard in Histoires.
Movement indications are conspicuously absent in the Five Pieces for Cello and Guitar by Carlo Domeniconi. The performers, given only metronome markings, have ample room for imagination. Writing in a sparse, almost minimalist language, Domeniconi connects the characters and motifs of the movements, yet gives each of the five pieces their individual mood and expression. In the process, he interweaves the two instruments, engaging them in conversation with each other as equal partners. This is especially noticeable in the musical dialogue of the fourth movement.
The Duetto III of Johann Paul Schiffelholtz is noteworthy for several reasons. It was written for cello and colascione, a Persian plucked instrument, which gained a certain popularity in Italy and Germany at the end of the 17th century. The colascione is so closely related to the guitar that only minimal adjustments are required in the piece’s adaptation. The musical balance between the instruments is also unusual in that the major role is given to the plucked instrument. The exact dates of the composer are not known; publisher Thierry Meunier speculates that he lived between 1680-1757. Although Johann Paul Schiffelholtz would therefore have been a contemporary of Antonio Vivaldi, his music is more representative of early classical style than Baroque.
Jaime Mirtenbaum Zenamon, the composer of Reflexões No. 6, has also made a name for himself as a duo player with cellist Matias de Oliveira Pinto. His composition reveals intimate familiarity with the sonorities and nuances of the guitar. Although the guitar part is strongly inspired by the capabilities of the instrument, the leading role is given primarily to the cello. The composer’s South American origin – Zenamon was born in Bolivia and now lives in Brazil – is evident in the constant rhythmic shifts from 3/4 to 6/8 time in the fiery virtuosity of the final movement.
Guitarist Peter Ernst is widely recognized and celebrated for his interpretations of solo and chamber music, including repertoire from the Renaissance to the present, as well as folkloristic music from South America. Among the many prizes he has received are the German National Youth Competition “Jugend musiziert” as well as international prizes of both solo and chamber music competitions in Germany, Italy, France and Spain.
He has toured throughout Europe, Japan, the Middle East and the USA and has performed at music festivals throughout Europe, including those in Torroella de Montgri (Spain), Iserlohn (Germany), Lublin and Pzermysl (Poland) as well as Mikulov (Czech Republic). In February, 2001, Mr. Ernst appeared as soloist in Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” in concerts with the Bergische Sinfoniker and conductor Peter Leonhard in Germany.
In 2000-2001, Mr. Ernst held a coveted full DAAD grant for studies with Sharon Isbin at the Juilliard School in New York City.
As a chamber musician he regularly performs with guitarist Karin Scholz as Duo Bergerac, cellist Maxine Neuman as Claremont Duo, with flutist Barbara Rosnitschek and with Argentinian charango virtuoso Diego Jascalevich.
Mr. Ernst has recorded six CDs. As a recording artist he appears with the Duo Bergerac exclusively on Thorofon Classics.
Maxine Neuman's solo and chamber music career spans North America, South America, Europe and Japan. A grant recipient from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts and a two-time Grammy Award winner, her biography appears in "Who's Who in the World." In addition to the Claremont Duo she is a founding member of the Crescent String Quartet, the Vermont Cello Quartet, Breve, and the Walden Trio.
Her long list of recording credits includes Deutsche Grammophon, Columbia, Angel, EMI, Nonesuch, Biddulph, CRI, Orion, Leonarda, Argo, Opus One, SONY/Virgin, AMC, Vanguard, Musical Heritage, Northeastern and CBS World Records.
She has appeared as soloist before a sold-out audience in New York's Town Hall in the American premiere of Giovanni Battista Viotti's only cello concerto, and for Austrophon, she recorded Schumann Cello Concerto in Count Esterhazy's historic palace in Austria. She can also be heard in such diverse settings as the Montreux Jazz Festival, the films of Jim Jarmusch, and with the band Metallica.
Distinguished as a teacher as well as performer, Ms. Neuman has served as a judge for numerous international competitions. On the faculty at the New York's School for Strings, she has taught at Bennington College, Williams College and C.W. Post University.
She has expanded the repertoire for cello and guitar by arranging and transcribing works from every period. Her cello is a J.B.Guadagnini, dating from 1772.
1 Allegretto comodo 4:22
2 Adagio 3:09
3 Con spirito 3:44
4 Largo 3:19
5 Allegro 3:00
6 Largo 2:52
7 Allegro 2:01
8 VIII. - La cage de cristal 1:27
9 V. - Dans la maison triste 2:11
10 X. - Le cortège de Balkis 2:21
11 II. - Le petit âne blanc 2:16
12 I. 2:20
13 II. con fuoco 1:11
14 III. Intermezzo 1:47
15 IV. 1:34
16 V 1:35
17 Andante 3:25
18 Menuetto 2:12
19 Presto 1:41
20 Fluido 2:53
21 Doloroso 4:13
22 Vivissimo 2:28
Recorded at Welda Castle
(Schloß Welda), Warburg, Germany.
Date of Recording: April 3-6, 1999
Recording Engineer: Bernhard Hanke
Photograph: Jürgen Röhrscheid
Cover Illustration: Alfons Holtgreve
Design: Jim Manly
The performers extend their special thanks to Dr. Martin Becker and the Fauerbach family at Schloß Welda.