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Monday, July 12, 2021

John-Henry Crawford, Dialogo, with Victor Santiago Asuncion, Brahms, Ligeti, Shostakovich


Young cellist John-Henry Crawford has a phenomenal way about him. There comes an album by him that gives us a bird's eye view of his brilliance. It is dubbed Dialogo (Orchid Classics ORC 100166). The title makes sense because it is a matter of John-Henry engaging in a vivid dialog with three compositions, and for two out of the three, with the pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion.

It turns out that the works chosen for the program seem pretty ideal in terms of giving us various sides and moods for the cellist to dwell within. And the music happens to be exceedingly beautiful anyway.

The Op. 99 Brahms Sonata for Piano and Cello has so much wonderful about it at base. Crawford attacks the cello part with a beautifully singing tone, a variable vibrato that brings the sound into various poetically aural places, and an intonation perfection that anybody with good ears will hearken to and appreciate. Asuncion returns the aural volleys with a widely subtle variability and a superb sense of touch and articulation that set us into a happy place from first to last. Anyone who knows and loves this sonata will recognize what a marvelous reading this is, surely one of the very best I have heard and I have heard more than a few.

Gyorgy Ligeti's Sonata for Solo Cello gets exceptional treatment by Crawford. The very sophisticated bowing demands and melodic complexities are taken in stride by the cellist. And remarkably he manages to retain his signature singing vibrancy throughout, so that it is both very Modern but also very lyrical.

Lastly the Shostakovich Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor brings to us a very strongly tempered, boldly outlined unravelling of the many brilliant twists and turns of the four movement work. There is more strength than delicacy perhaps but that is no doubt a good thing for the insights one can gain by hearing it all in this way, full strength as it were. The robust reading seems right, but then too it is not at a maximum assertive level either, so it all makes sense.

Get this one and hear a wonderful young cellist open up new avenues to classic works. Do not miss it.

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