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Good Celloship

New York
92nd Street Y
03/26/2002 -  
Claude Debussy: Cello Sonata
Robert Schumann: Adagio and Allegro
Ludwig van Beethoven: Cello Sonata # 3
Benjamin Britten: Cello Sonata
Frederic Chopin: Introduction and Polonaise Brillante

Thomas Carroll (cello)
Carole Presland (piano)

The heavy spring rains must have made Welsh cellist Thomas Carroll feel right at home as he presented a confident recital last evening at the 92nd Street Y. In a rare bit of programming confusion, the order of pieces was reversed for the first half, leaving many patrons unsure of which piece was Debussy and which Beethoven, but it was refreshingly obvious that this was not a muddle for the recitalist, as he displayed a command of stylistic definition and integrity missing in many of his contemporaries. Actually, Mr. Carroll is a little too experienced to be classified as a “Young Concert Artist”, since his curriculum vitae already boasts an appearance as concerto soloist with the London Symphony. His corresponding level of mature play was noticeable from the outset as he dug in to the Debussy, still a very modern sounding work today. In a fortuitous substitution, Mr. Carroll offered a piece of Schumann for one of Lutoslawski, reaching deep into his bag of tricks to present the horn piece Adagio and Allegro (it is only fair that a cellist should perform this since hornists sometimes appropriate Brahms Cello Sonata # 1) and imbued it with a very heavy vibrato also uncharacteristic of his generation. In fact, perhaps the most impressive aspect of this entire evening was Mr. Carroll’s protean approach: each work was executed in an entirely different yet appropriate manner.

The Beethoven was stated powerfully, but exposed the imbalance between piano and cello that marred this recital somewhat. Carole Presland, strong, expressive and rock steady, was perhaps a tad too dominating throughout, setting the pace and parameters of expression rather forcefully so that the entire experience seemed a little like listening to a teacher and student pre-concert run-through. I would be interested in a solo recital by this talented practitioner, but she needs to pull back some in order to be a successful accompanist. The most satisfying performance was that of the Britten, preceded by a polished spoken introduction from the cellist (another indication that he is well along his way towards a professional career). The inclusion of the Debussy on the same program as this piece, which cemented a fine musical friendship, reminded of that famous Aldeburgh recital of the late ‘60’s with both the composer and dedicatee Rostropovich in such fine fettle. Carroll seemed most invested in this work, the only one for which he and his partner employed their printed parts, and was particularly impressive and expressive in declaiming the poetry of the elegia, yet another example of maturity beyond his years. He has a full tone and a well-stocked armamentarium of techniques that allow him to communicate his solid grasp of music history and correspondingly correct idiom. I would think that at his next New York event, he should be able to comfortably stand on his own and lose the appellation Young Concert Artist.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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