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"Songs and Dances": Bazelaire: Suite Française, Op. 114; Granados-Gokcen: Mañanica Era; Nin: 4 Chants d'Espagne; Piatti: Tarantella; Vaughan Williams: 6 Studies in English Folksong; Jacobson: Waltz Impromptu No. 1 (The Gothenburg Waltz); Rachmaninoff: Danse Orientale, Op. 2/2; Tcherepnin: Songs and Dances, Op. 84. Selma Gokcen, cello, & John Lenehan, piano. Gallo CD-948 (54:05)
This admirable recital record features an artist with strong ties to North Carolina whom we first heard during one of the NC Symphony's Bryan Competitions, the late-lamented contests for string players, pianists and vocalists that helped launch several professional careers. Gokcen wound up on the faculty at ECU, from which base she enriched the musical life of concertgoers in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont for a number of years. She's currently in London, where she teaches at the Guildhall School of Music. She returns to the Triangle this weekend for an October 28 matinee concert at the NC Museum of Art, where her colleagues will include two other artists with ECU ties - soprano Louise Toppin and violinst Fritz Gearhart.
Gokcen's CD, published several years ago but not yet covered in of our any local papers, presents an attractive program that is chiefly linked by its various composers' extensive use of folksongs, many of which listeners are likely to know in their more-or-less original forms. The first number of the opening French Suite, for example, is one of the songs set by Joseph Canteloube in his celebrated, multi-volume collection of "Songs of the Auvergne." The Granados number has been transcribed by Gokcen herself, and the Nin numbers given here are based on a violin version of four of the 20 songs included in the original collection. Piatti's Tarantella is a demanding showpiece, and the players do it proud. Vaughan Williams' famous Studies - often played by violists and less frequently by violinists or clarinetists - are handsomely done by the duo. Julian Jacobson (b.1947) contributes his own note on his Waltz, written in Sweden in 1982 while the pianist-composer was on tour with Zara Nelsova. The Rachmaninoff isn't a transcription but is instead an original work for cello and piano. The recital ends with a glowing reading of Alexander Tcherepnin's 1954 "Songs and Dances," dedicated to Piatigorsky. The playing is solid throughout, the sound is quite good, and many will find the un-hackneyed program delightful from start to finish.
This CD was Gokcen's first recording. Readers of our feature review of CDs by Mac McClure, published elsewhere in this issue, will know that she performs Montsalvatge's substantial Sonata concertante on a more recent release. Here's hoping for many, many more from this distinguished, American-born artist. Her partner in "Songs and Dances" is British pianist John Lenehan, who has made a slew of recordings, among which is crossover composer Michael Nyman's Piano Concerto. (Back when 'UNC-FM played music, Nyman figured both often and prominently among its cultural offerings.)
The notes, given in English, French and German, are mostly by our CVNC colleagues, Joe and Elizabeth Kahn, who provide documentation for CDs-and program notes, too-as WordPros, Inc.