Graham Caskie in Chopin: Poetry, parlando and cantabile triumph

Post Date: 8 July 2018
Post Type: Piano Things

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CHOPIN Piano Concerto no. 1, ‘Cello Sonata
Graham Caskie, Piano
Badke Quartet
Thomas Carroll
Cadenza Music CACD 1701

A ravishingly poetic, sonically beautiful and vibrantly recorded issue. To hear Chopin’s E minor concerto in its piano quintet guise is still a rather rare event. In this recording one forgets all about symphonic preconceptions: To listen to Caskie and his string colleagues is to savour a new intimacy in the score that is beguiling and entirely convincing. Muscular virtuosity and shallow bravura are entirely banished. It is as though these musicians refuse to even consider ‘mechanical difficulties’ in their artistic psyches. The opening tutti of the first movement shows a love of tonal beauty, a concern for refined good taste that sets the priorities for the entire disc. Caskie in his first entry wears proverbial velvet gloves. He is Maestro cantabile at all times, a pianist who refuses to even permit a hint of vulgarity or harshness in his wide range of colours. As can be imagined the slow movement of the concerto makes for ravishing listening. Perhaps the finale lacks rustic character and is a little too poised for some tastes, but the exquisite care and sensitivity that the Caskie ensemble show in every semiquaver makes for a new perspective on music that can in other hands and at other times seem overly familiar- even over-played- when presented in the usual orchestral guise.

Chopin’s ‘cello sonata is a monster challenge for most pianists, but on the evidence of this performance, Caskie takes its Herculean challenges in his stride. Thomas Carroll is an exceptionally vibrant ‘cellist, producing a tonal quality and range of sound that is consistently both arresting and sensitive to behold. Both artists are convincing and persuasive in terms of linear shaping. There is a wonderful balance throughout too. Only in the finale did I miss energy and bravura- it all seemed a little too ‘safe’ and comfortable, despite the exquisite and elegant parlando and cantabile that is always evident.

A beautiful issue in every sense. Bravo

Alexander Thompson