The Strad Issue: February 2016
Description: Meneses tackles two peaks of the solo cello repertoire
Musicians: Antonio Meneses (cello) Claudio Cruz (violin)
Composer: Cassadó; Kodály

Gaspar Cassadó’s three-movement, Catalan-themed response to the Bach Suites is still little known in proportion to its originality, perhaps owing to the vertiginous technical demands it embodies, in particular in the flamboyant central Sardana. Antonio Meneses fully has the measure of the piece here. More intimately and warmly recorded than Alisa Weilerstein on Decca, he doesn’t aspire to her range of dynamic. Rather, his mastery is founded on a rhythmic swing that brings with it a generosity of spirit, however furious the triple-stopping or knotty the fingering.

Likewise, Meneses understands that Kodály wrote his Solo Sonata to sound as if played from the top of a mountain, not attempted by one struggling halfway up it, with an almost casual indifference to virtuosity that was shared by his fellow Hungarians Liszt and Ligeti. The tuning, unsteady vibrato and often raw tone of Claudio Cruz, his companion in the Duo, fall less gratefully on the ear, though their timbres are more evenly matched in the dramatic central dialogue.

In both Kodály works, the unswerving drive and purpose of János Starker’s interpretation (EMI/Warner) and the fantastic imagination of Roel Dieltiens (Harmonia Mundi) still hold sway, but Meneses treads a teasing middle path through the thickets of trills in the Sonata’s finale (where Starker makes understandable cuts), and his rhythmic grip holds on to the vernacular spirit even when Kodály’s material is stretched to breaking point.

Peter Quantrill