A CD about to be released by MSR Classics, titled FLAIR just reached us. It features the gifted young cellist Miriam K. Smith accompanied by the equally talented Jacob Miller at the piano. The results are impressive.

The selections in the nicely engineered and authoritatively annotated CD span composers from four countries writing in essentially Romantic and neo-Romantic idioms. The young cellist tackles their music with authority far beyond her years.

Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango, a challenging one-movement, 12-minute technical minefield was composed for Mstislav Rostropovich. Smith tackles it without fear, fiercely handling tricky double-stops and glissandi and all the while keeping Piazzolla’s music flowing.

I must confess that through no fault of Miriam K. Smith I found the bland arrangement by Maurice Marechal of Manuel de Falla’s Seven Popular Spanish Songs a disappointment. Siete in Spanish (Seven in English) indicates that there must be that number of songs in the arrangement. Marechal names his arrangement Suite Populaire Espagnole, leaving out the seventh song Polo, and in so doing, depriving the listener of the fieriest song of the Falla cycle. Miriam K. Smith does her best to inject Spanish passion into what is at its core French salon music.

Things improve exponentially when Miss Smith and Jacob Miller, her superb collaborative pianist play Samuel Barber’s Sonata for Cello and Piano. An early work of Barber with an opus 6 marking, the three-movement work features an opening Allegro, an Adagio that reminds this listener of that composer’s gift for long, spinning melodies in other works of his, and a brilliant closing Allegro. Miriam K. Smith handles Barber’s neo-Romantic composition with elegance in the Adagio and with the necessary passion to bring the sonata to an exciting ending.

Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso – originally a lyrical piece of salon music that was later orchestrated for cello and orchestra by the composer himself, is a one-movement rhapsody in miniature that requires flair in execution, which both Smith and Miller provide with great sensitivity.

Long in planning, FLAIR finally became a reality at the end of last year, bringing to the attention of classical music lovers an immensely gifted young cellist who has all the markings of a major artist.

Rafael de Acha

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