BBC Music Magazine

Songs of the Cello – Homage to Pablo Casals


Beethoven: Cello Sonata in A; JS Bach: Solo Cello Suite No. 1 in G; plus works by Schumann, Schubert, Rubinstein and Casals

Taeguk Mun (cello),

Chi Ho Han (piano)

Warner Classics 9029563313 59:02 mins Young Korean cellist Taeguk Mun is winner of the 2014

Pablo Casals Internatio­nal Cello Competitio­n and the $25,000 Janos Starker Foundation Award in 2016. Perhaps it’s unfortunat­e that this perfectly attractive programme, Songs of the Cello, has been linked to Casals. Mun’s playing is fastidious and elegant to a fault, a very far cry indeed from the high-voltage, soulsearch­ing earthiness of his hero. Comparison­s aside, though, the recital reveals two highly accomplish­ed and sensitive musicians. Mun’s G major Bach Suite has an easy fluency, garnished with some idiomatic ornaments in the repeats which never sound overdone. His speeds are also judicious, with few extremes. Though there’s a dancing quality throughout, there’s also a slight sense of playing it safe.

Pianist Chi Ho Han injects a sparky energy into the Beethoven Sonata in A major, reminding us how quickly its broadly smiling A major theme darkens into a world of shadowy pain. This is a gripping interpreta­tion of the Allegro ma non tanto; the finale is also impressive­ly debonair, even if they don’t manage to open up that visionary space inherent in the Andante cantabile.

Only the song transcript­ions are disappoint­ing: Schubert’s ‘An die Musik’ should never be treated as an afterthoug­ht, nor Casals’s ‘El cant dels ocells’ as less than an exile’s anguished cry. Helen Wallace

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