Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Little-Known Cellist Finally Debuts on Sony

from the Amazon.com Web page for the recording begin discussed

A little over a month ago, Sony Classical released an album of two concertos for cello and orchestra featuring cellist Bion Tsang performing with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Scott Yoo. As of this writing and on the basis of a Google search, this recording is currently only available for download with Amazon.com as its best-known source. (That limitation may be due to the album being distributed by the Korean division of Sony Music Entertainment.) The two selections are by Antonín Dvořák, the Opus 104 concerto in B minor, and George Enescu, the Opus 8 symphonie concertante.

According to his Web page, Tsang has a relatively modest discography. The best known of the labels is Harmonia Mundi by virtue of his participating in the instrumental accompaniment on a Conspirare recording. This is more than a little ironic, since Tsang was the cellist responsible for the United States premiere of Enescu’s Opus 8, which he performed with the American Symphony Orchestra in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in 2000. (Enescu completed this composition in Paris in 1901.) For the record (so to speak), an Amazon search for “Enescu Symphonie Concertante” reveals that there is no shortage of recordings of this composition; but they all involve European soloists and orchestras. Curiously, while Tsang is American, this recording was made in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

The bottom line is that, for all of his imaginative creativity, Enescu continues to receive minimal attention. Looking over my accounts of performances here in San Francisco, Enescu seems to be represented (almost?) entirely by his Opus 25 (third) violin sonata in A minor, which evokes traditional Romanian idioms. (When I lived in Philadelphia prior to beginning my college education, Enescu was known pretty much only for the first of his two Opus 11 Romanian rhapsodies.)

All this means that I have little by way of a baseline for evaluating performances of Enescu’s music. However, on the basis of my own serious listening experiences, I would say that there is more potential for passion in that music than Tsang and Yoo disclosed in their reading of Opus 8. I found this more than a little disappointing, since the performance of the Dvořák concerto tended to short-change the passionate rhetoric that I have encountered through any number of cellists both in performance and over the course of a considerable time-span of recordings. Serious listeners deserve better.

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