Stravinsky’s Suite based on Pulcinella (1920) was arranged by the composer in 1933 for cello and piano – with the precious assistance of cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Chopin’s Introduction & Polonaise brillante was written in the composer’s early years while on holiday in 1829 at Prince Radziwill estate, time spent in luxurious circumstances. Chopin went hunting, played the piano and chamber music with the prince’s family members and also composed a few works. It was here where he wrote this “pollacca with cello” for the Prince, an amateur cellist. A year later he added an introductory part to the piece and had it published.
The Catalan cellist-composer Cassadó, Pablo Casals’ first student, was hailed as a prodigy at a very young age and made a distinguished career both as a cellist and as a composer. The only solo piece on this recording is Cassadó’s Suite (1926), a wonderful eclectic hommage inspired by his masters Casals and Ravel, as well as Bach and Catalan folk music. Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 1, for Cello and Piano was arranged by the composer himself in 1928 for the famous cellist Jenő Kerpely, who premiered it in 1929 accompanied by Bartók. Nearer to us, Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for cello and piano was written in 1982 for Rostropovich.
The last piece on the program is Ravel’s Pièce en forme de Habanera, originally composed for a bass voice and piano as a Vocalise-étude at the request of the Paris Conservatoire. In the same year Ravel transcribed the work for cello and piano and then for several other instruments with the title “Pièce en forme de Habanera”. In that period Ravel, along with many of his contemporaries, was fascinated by Iberian folk music and composed a pretty number of Spanish-inspired music: the Rapsodie espagnole, L’Heure espagnole, Alborada del gracioso to name but a few. Cellist István Várdai plays a Stradivari of 1673 which had been previously owned by Jacqueline du Pré and Lynn Harrell ; Várdai began an international career after having won major competitions in Geneva, Moscow, Budapest and Munich. © SM/Qobuz