The Strad Issue: January 2011
Musicians: Julius Berger (cello)
Composer: Meyer, B. Hummel, Regner, Killmayer, Theodorakis

Seasoned German cellist Julius Berger celebrates collaborations with five composers on this disc of works written for him during a varied career. It’s hardly surprising that Britten’s influence pervades many contemporary solo cello works, and there’s more than a touch of his solo Suite no.1 in both Krzysztof Meyer’s Sonata no.2 and Berthold Hummel’s two fantasias. The second, ‘in memoriam Pablo Casals’, is a substantial, multi-section piece with extensive use of harmonics, for which Berger obtains clarity and a range of expressive articulation from his 1566 ‘King Charles IX’ Amati.

Berger, who completed his studies with Zara Nelsova, seems in total control in Meyer’s four-movement Sonata of 2007, giving more fragmented moments a clear sense of line. The third movement, its emotional heart, is reminiscent of Bartók’s night music – flutey, insect-like harmonics, col legno and sul ponticello glissandos, leading to a passionately insistent statement.

Two pieces by Wilhelm Killmayer with a dash of folk are charmingly characterised, the Bayerischer Ländler conveying a Bavarian folk band through effective snatches of singing double-stops and pizzicato. Audible intakes of breath are sometimes intrusive in Hermann Regner’s four Abendlieder, but Berger remains an effective communicator throughout. Mikis Theodorakis’s haunting East of the Aegean closes an interesting and well-recorded disc.