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Second great 5 stars review in Fanfare

November 30, 2023

Myron Silberstein

≈ UPHEAVAL  Janne Fredens (vc); Søren Rastogi (pn)  OUR RECORDINGS 6.220683 (Streaming audio 60:53)

BOSMANS Cello Sonata. PEJAČEVIĆ Cello Sonata. L. BOULANGER Nocturne. N. BOULANGER 3 Pieces for Cello and Piano
This album is named Upheaval for two reasons: first, because it presents music by women who wrote at a time when composition was still considered the province of men; second, because the time in question was the period around World War I, when much of the world was in a state of upheaval. The cello-piano team of Janne Fredens and Søren Rastogi, prizewinners in the Danish Radio Chamber Music Competition, have long been champions of women composers. They presented the Danish premiere of Dora Pejačević’s Piano Quartet in 2022 and created an interdisciplinary presentation about Clara Schumann entitled Clara—Inner Voices that has been widely performed throughout Denmark.
Fredens achieves a rich, woody timbre on the cello that is resonant and full yet articulate and lyrical. The balance between these aspects of tone is a big asset in the dramatic opening of Henriëtte Bosmans’s Cello Sonata. The music’s crisp rhythms, intervallic skips, and distressed emotional content can encourage raspiness; even as fine a cellist as Doris Hochscheid overplays in these opening measures. Fredens, in contrast, seems to darken the cello’s tone here, making it full and thick rather than labored. Yet in moments driven by rhythm, such as the first theme in the Pejačević sonata’s scherzo movement, Fredens’s tone is light and her articulation clipped while still retaining the core of warmth that characterizes her playing. And in a lyrical, songlike piece such as Lili Boulanger’s Nocturne (originally written for flute, then published as one of two pieces for violin and piano), Fredens’s tone soars with ecstatic warmth and a seemingly endless legato. Significantly, Fredens and Rastogi’s tempo on the Nocturne is considerably more leisurely than that in the 1950 Fournier/Lusch recording. Whereas that recording is lyrical and ardent, Fredens and Rastogi’s is idyllic in its passion, reveling in the luxuriousness of Boulanger’s harmonies. It’s one of the highlights of the recording and would make a superb introduction to Boulanger for any listeners unfamiliar with her work.
Søren Rastogi brings his formidable soloist’s artistry to the music’s piano parts. Particularly noteworthy is the subtlety of his dynamics; the sparsely scored, wintry first piece of Nadia Boulanger’s Three Pieces for Cello and Piano requires tremendous control over crescendos and decrescendos within a pianissimo range, which Rastogi delivers in a natural, expressive manner. He also has plenty of power when needed, as in the towering chords that bookend Bosman’s sonata, and plenty of agility, as in the graceful arpeggios that pepper Pejačević’s finale. I occasionally wish the engineering had placed the piano further forward in the mix; it’s clear that Fredens and Rastogi play the second of Nadia Boulanger’s pieces as a canon—Rastogi’s phrasings and shadings mirror Fredens’s—but the engineering gives the impression of a soloist and accompanist. For much of the recording, though, Rastogi’s assertive, expressive playing makes for an audible equality of collaboration.
Inevitably, there are a few choices Fredens and Rastogi make that don’t entirely appeal to me. I think the final maestoso in the Bosman sonata would be more effective if it were just a bit slower and more portentous. Likewise, I’d welcome slightly more rubato in the slow movement of the Pejačević. But truly, the ensemble and interpretations throughout this recital are first-rate, and so is the music, which is woefully under programmed and ripe for the kind of thoughtful artistic attention that Fredens and Rastogi provide it. Warmly recommended. Myron Silberstein
Five stars: First-rate performances of attractive unfamiliar repertoire

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