The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Famous and historic cellist Pablo Casals and his 1733 cello come alive again through the artistry of Amit Peled. Plus, the Quey Percussion Duo gives a FREE recital Thursday night at the UW-Madison

March 1, 2016
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ALERT: This Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. in Morphy Recital Hall, guest artists the Quey Percussion Duo – Gene Koshinsky and Tim Broscious – will perform an eclectic combination of original and existing repertoire for percussion duo. Sorry, no word about specific works on the program.

By Jacob Stockinger

Here is a special posting, a review written by frequent guest critic and writer for this blog, John W. Barker, who also took the performance photos. Barker (below) is an emeritus professor of Medieval history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He also is a well-known classical music critic who writes for Isthmus and the American Record Guide, and who for 12 years hosted an early music show every other Sunday morning on WORT FM 89.9 FM. He serves on the Board of Advisors for the Madison Early Music Festival and frequently gives pre-concert lectures in Madison.

John-Barker

By John W. Barker

Once again, Farley’s House of Pianos has shown what a unique outpost it is for classical music in Madison.

On last Saturday night, it presented the brilliant young Israeli-American cellist Amit Peled (below), with his working accompanist, Noreen Cassidy-Polera, having snared them along the line of their current national tour.

Amit Peled 1

Peled will be recalled from his performance of the Schumann Cello Concerto with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra in March of 2015.

For this visit, he brought with him not only his own talents, but a remarkable instrument. This was a cello  made in 1733 by Matteo Gofriller, once owned and played on by no less than Pablo Casals (below). Two years ago, it was entrusted to Peled on loan by Marta Casals Istomin, the great cellist’s widow.

Casals and his cello

For the recital at Farley’s, Peled played a program that Casals had presented himself back in 1915. Thus, listeners heard a century-old program, played on an almost 300-year old instrument, accompanied on a hundred-year-old (1914) Mason and Hamlin piano restored by the Farley workshop.

Before the program began, the history of this cello and its maker was discussed by Dan Hendricks (below), a local maker and repairer of string instruments.

Dan Hendricks

The cello (below) is a handsome playing-piece of burnished color. It underwent serious restoration after a long period without being played. It has an extraordinarily rich sound through its entire range—a fact that Peled has been learning to exploit, on his own terms. In effect, he played on it as if making love to it, bringing out sound ranging from almost thunderously bold to exquisitely delicate.

Casals cello

That range of playing technique was, indeed, the image of Peled’s own remarkable artistry. And the 1915 program was his revival of what used to be typical of a concert menu, in the form of a veritable dinner.

The appetizer was an adaptation of an Oboe Sonata by George Frideric Handel, followed then by the “steak”, the Third of the Sonatas for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach. After an intermission, the “salad” was Beethoven’s witty variations on Mozart’s “Bei Männern” duet from The Magic Flute opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Then followed an array of “desserts”: three short pieces by Gabriel Fauré, an aria by Bach in transcription, and an aptly titled “Allegro appassionato” by Camille Saint-Saëns. (You can hear Peled play a Faure piece, “Elegy,” on the Goffriller cello in the YouTube video at the bottom.)

All this music was presented with sensitivity, power and endlessly moving nuance by Peled (below). As if his musical artistry were not enough, however, he talked about the “dessert” pieces with the audience, showing fine historical perspective, wittily presented. He even took questions from the house.

Amit Peled playing 2016

Beyond that, he and Cassidy-Polera stayed on after the concert to talk at length with any audience member interested—following, as he pointed out, a practice of Casals himself in his appearances.

It was, in all, a remarkable musical evening, teaching us much about fine old instruments, delighting us with wide-ranging selections, and revealing a superb musical artist who is also a warm and wonderful human being.


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