The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Jonathan Aasgaard (cello) Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Gerard Schwarz (conductor)
Composer: Bloch, David Diamond, Gerard Schwarz, Bruch

What characterises Jewish music? Perhaps the augmented intervals and whispers of melismatic orientalism in the melodies, such as Bloch’s Prayer, or the cantorial incantation that we hear in the opening of Kol Nidrei? Certainly all these items have a tangible vein of melancholy, but that is only one aspect of Jewish music, missing the Eastern-European roots of Klezmer. Jonathan Aasgaard – principal cellist of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic – astutely maintains a tight rein on the ululatory aspects of this music, where too much rubato can all too quickly appear over-indulgent. Yet in Schelomo, where the intensity is required, he evokes a searing line that is evocatively poetic. Rhapsodic in nature the score is littered with performance instructions that are faithfully observed in this clearly balanced recording – the orchestra is particularly impressive in depicting the grandeur of Solomon’s Palace.  

Both David Diamond and Gerard Schwarz are approachable tonal composers, although the inspiration for their works has of necessity to generate a reflective and mournful quality. Diamond’s Kaddish (‘prayer for the dead’) speaks for itself, and Aasgard delivers an eloquent and finely balanced interpretation with a warmly-hued tonal range. Written to mark the cellist David Tonkonogui’s untimely death, Schwarz’s In memoriam appears a tauter composition, and the expressive melodic invention is sensitively conveyed.
Bruch’s Kol Nidrei has a certain magnificence, with Aasgaard both reflective in the opening yet mustering the ensuing fervour and grand gestures with style and bravura. However, given the dour shadow cast over this disc by the melancholic material, a few lighter works would have balanced the programme.   

Joanne Talbot