Hands On Heart – Tim Hugh & Olga Sitkovetsky: Concert for Steve

0 of 5 stars

Rhapsody No.1 [arr. composer for Cello and Piano]
Sonata for Solo Cello, Op.8
Le Grand Tango
Ne Poy Krasavitsa, Op.4/4 [transcribed]
Variations on a Theme of Rossini
Chant du Menestrel, Op.71
The Flight of the Bumble-bee
Après un rêve, Op.7/2

Tim Hugh (cello) & Olga Sitkovetsky (piano)

Recorded 26 November 2007 in Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: September 2008
Duration: 72 minutes

This recital from Tim Hugh and Olga Sitkovetsky was billed as a “concert for Steve”, Tim Hugh’s brother who suffered a heart attack in 2006. As the cellist says, “the concert is both a tribute to and a celebration of my brother Steve’s life”. The recording of it supports the British Heart Foundation.

It’s an excellent programme, consisting mainly of folk-inspired 20th-century works for cello, but with a generous selection of encores. Only one piece is omitted from the disc due to time restraints – Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, placed between the Kodály and Piazzolla in the original running order.

Central to the disc is a fine performance of Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello, Hugh exploiting the work’s exceptional depth of feeling. Technically well-nigh flawless, the interpretation brings clarity and a thoughtful introspection to the Adagio, using plenty of expressive rubato, though not for its own sake – the music responding naturally to his deeply felt phrasing. This means the finale bursts out of the blocks with a start, the final bars then becoming a joyous culmination and contrasting the opening bars of the first movement that were filled with foreboding. Applause is retained and rightly so, the reaction to Hugh’s frenzied finish to the Sonata evidence of the atmosphere achieved by the cellist.

The recital begins with Bartók’s own arrangement of his First Rhapsody (originally for violin and orchestra). In this, and Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, Tim Hugh exhibits a real aptitude for dance-inspired music, finding the syncopation and metrical stresses of the Rhapsody, Sitkovetsky leading off the final section of Le Grand Tango with poise and agility. The pianist’s bell-like octaves rustle in the wind in the slower section of this ambitious yet tightly structured work, dedicated to Rostropovich.

A substantial section of encores and cello favourites finds the musicians in ebullient mood for Paganini’s Variations, the outrageous technical demands met with room to spare on just the one cello string, the ‘A’. This and a fizzing non-credited transcription of Flight of the Bumble-bee bring cheers from the audience. There’s charm, too, from Glazunov, a mellow rendition of Rachmaninov’s song, and sensitively played Fauré. Throughout, Olga Sitkovetsky a responsive accompanist.

The booklet reprints Brendan G. Carroll’s concert notes to complement a nicely varied and brilliantly performed selection of cello works. The recorded sound is excellent.

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