Rare Russian Soul

By Cathy Fuller

Live From Fraser, recorded on Nov. 18, 2010, with cellist Wendy Warner and pianist Irina Nuzova

Scriabin, arr. Piatigorsky - from 12 Etudes Op. 8: No. 11 in B-flat minor
Beethoven - Variations on "Bei Männern" from Mozart's The Magic Flute
Myaskovsky - Cello Sonata No. 2 in A minor
Schnittke - Musica Nostalgica

Cellist Wendy Warner owns two cellos. One was built by Becker in 1963 and the other by Gagliano in 1772; "it's like being married to two different people," she says. The modern Becker is bright, with a focused and far-reaching sound, while the Gagliano's voice is rich, dark and full of intrigue. When Warner and her duo partner, pianist Irina Nuzova, came to our Fraser Performance Studio, it was the Gagliano that made the trip with them because it has the qualities that bring out the shadowy Russian landscapes in the music of Scriabin and Myaskovsky.

Warner won the 4th International Rostropovich Competition in 1990. She went on to study with Rostropovich, and I was fascinated when she told us that he never played the cello for her in their lessons. Instead, he would play the piano or conduct, and he would unleash his imagination and colorful thinking. He was "very pictorial," she says, and he wanted Warner to learn to generate her own sound with a vast palette of colors. He didn't demonstrate because he didn't want his students to imitate him. Warner has long believed, like Rostropovich, that people are born with an ideal sound within them, and that their task is to find it and give it voice.

Myaskovsky's second cello sonata was a stunning discovery for many of us in the studio audience. It's one of those pieces, Nuzova says, that takes time to ripen and reach its listeners. It's subtle, she says, but it stays with you. Myaskovsky's symphonies — there are 27 of them — are superbly crafted and full of atmosphere. So is this sonata, with its long lines and quiet passion. Myaskovsky dedicated it to Rostropovich. It haunted me for days afterward, especially the opening melody, which felt like something I've always known. Warner and Nuzova bring color and honesty to its every gesture.


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