Katya Grineva / Byron Duckwall
2016: MTC Recordings
Katya Grineva on Piano
Byron Duckwall on Cello
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 21, 2016
This CD was created by Katya Grineva, pianist, who has been favorably reviewed on these pages, and Byron Duckwall, cellist, both of whom bring musical mastery and sensuality to the luxurious tones of Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Fauré, Massenet, and Saint-Saëns. At least three of the nine works included in the album have been reviewed as ballet scores, Satie’s “Gymnopédies” and “Gnossiennes”, Saint-Saens’ “The Swan”, and Massenet’s “Méditation from ‘Thaïs’”. I chose four tracks that feature both piano and cello, but, it should be noted, several tracks feature Ms. Grineva on solo piano. She brings out transporting tonal imagery throughout, each work more enticing than the previous, as the listener keenly anticipates her piano’s languorous, elegant phrasing. Album notes indicate that Ms. Grineva was inspired to create this album after she was filmed playing a dedication to the French people, following the Paris attacks. Mr. Duckwall notes that he was inspired by his admiration of French cellists and Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto.
#1 – Méditation from “Thaïs” – Composed by Jules Massenet. One can envision Ashton’s sumptuous Pas de Deux, choreographed to Massenet’s “Méditation” from Thaïs, an intermezzo within the opera, originally for violin and orchestra. Ms. Grineva and Mr. Duckwall create poignancy and rapture, as Mr. Duckwall plays the theme with yearning eloquence, accompanied by Ms. Grineva’s deeply textured chords. The listener is immediately aware that this album will be a source of warmth and comfort for quiet reflection and festive soirées.
#3 – ”The Swan” (Carnival of the Animals) – Composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. Once again, this track is especially evocative of ballet, here Fokine’s solo ballet choreographed to Saint-Saëns’ “The Swan”. Ms. Grineva once again accompanied Mr. Duckwall’s cello theme, here with grace and serenity. The cello phrases were seamlessly supple and rich, evoking beauty and tragedy at once. The piano’s waterfalls of notes were like the ballet’s fluidly fluttering arms. This track, like the others, begs for repeated listening.
#6 – ”Élégie”, Opus 24 (for cello and piano) – Composed by Gabriel Fauré. This was a totally serendipitous track, a work I don’t recall, and it instantly became my favorite. It opens with gripping emotionality, that develops into compelling tonal drama. Here, Ms. Grineva has an opportunity for solos and a fused, intense piano-cello duet, with contrasting tempos and themes. If Fauré’s “Élégie” is not yet a ballet score, it certainly would be a commanding one, and it would be a sensational film score as well.
#10 – Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Cello and Piano, “Finale” (Animé) – Composed by Claude Debussy. Ms. Grineva and Mr. Duckwall perform the three movements of Debussy’s Sonata No. 1 in D minor for Cello and Piano, the first and second called, “Prologue” (“Lent”) and “Serenade” (“Modérément animé”). I chose the third, “Finale” (“Animé), for comment. The track opens with Ms. Grineva’s dancing notes, infused with an exotic aura. The cello’s expansion and enhancement of the searing theme is fervent and fascinating. Bits of atonality add to the musical sense of longing.