Yet this is no ordinary French album. Instead of Debussy being the most modern composer on the playlist, Debussy’s late and seldom heard masterpiece, Sonate pour violoncelle et piano, CD144 is the oldest. The work is no ordinary offering. Written just a few years before his death and after the outbreak of WWI, it is unlike any of his earlier programmatic music. Crozman easily manages the extreme technical demands of the left-hand pizzicato, the harmonics, and various bowing techniques that challenge the finest performers. Through all the modern harmonies, he makes the instrument sing and he leaves an emotional impact on the listener.
The album begins with Poulenc’s Sonate pour violoncelle et piano, FP 143. The first movement sparkles with joy. The second movement, Cavatine, is a soulful aria. The rich tones of the 1696 “Bonjour” Stradivarius are heart-warming. From there, a contrasting third movement full of humour gives the sense of the bustling of post-war Paris. The Finale is almost a piece unto itself full of irony and mood swings.
Also, on the album is a collection of short French folksongs reminiscent of Bartok. Crozman met up with the music of Charles Kœchlin and his Chansons bretonnes pour violoncelle et piano sur des themes de l’ancien folklore, Op. 115 in an ethnomusicology class at the Paris Conservatory. The Bartok-like arrangements have a delightful easy listening quality in which the piano adds a sparkle of contrast. Crozman’s Conservatory entrance audition included Variations de concert pour violoncelle et piano by Jean Françaix. The delightful set of eleven variations takes one through a garden of various moods demanding superb technique. The album ends with the prayerful “Louange à l’éternité de Jésus” from Olivier Messiaien’s Quatuor pour la fin du Temps written for performance in a prisoner of war camp during the German occupation.
In Cavatine, Crozman is joined by Philip Chiu, one of Canada’s foremost pianists and recipient of the prestigious Prix Goyer. Chiu is best known for his collaborations with leading musicians on the world stage. He has been heard recently in Toronto in solo and chamber music performances and an appearance with the Toronto Symphony. His sensitive playing exudes the expressivity of the music. He has a keen sense of oneness with Crozman, an artist with whom he has worked for several years.
Pianist Philip Chiu; Photo credit: David Richards
Cellist Cameron Crozman; Photo credit: www.cameroncrozman.com
Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
- symphonic, choral, opera, chamber, jazz and period music -
Album Cover: Cavatine
Two great albums by Cameron Crozman
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON May 11th 2020
Album Cover, BRITTEN Suite pour violoncelle
Crozman’s second album takes him down an equally singular path - the complete recording of Benjamin Britten’s Three Suites for Cello Opp. 72, 80, and 87, composed as gifts to the famed Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich. While the recordings by the late maestro and cellist may remain as the yardstick versions of the first two suites, what one gets here is the complete set of three. While Britten’s suites may be a challenge for a first-time listener, and, I suspect, even more of a challenge for the performer, Crozman explores the breadth of expression that lies within the notes. The subdued opening of the first suite and its ultimate intensity are both controlled in the impeccable performance. Once again on this recording, Crozman exhibits his consummate artistry. The sound from the highest harmonics to the depth of his C string has a warmth and underlying surety that allows him to play with the utmost subtlety. That Crozman can find the profundity of Britten’s writing within the score at this stage of his career speaks to his very bright future.
Cameron Crozman is without doubt a generational talent, but he is more than that: he is an artist with a unique perspective on music and performance. It isn’t surprising that the brilliant young Canadian cellist would produce two unusual and distinctive albums as his first forays into recording.
It seems like yesterday that Crozman was performing the Dvorak Cello Concerto with the National Youth Orchestra at age 17 back in 2012. Yet a lot has gone on for this boy wunderkind from London Ontario in the intervening years. Six years at the Paris Conservatory, the oldest and perhaps most revered music training institution in the world is where he grew into a mature artist, tutored by some of the finest musical practitioners including cellist Gautier Capuçon. It was in these years that he found the inspiration for his debut album, Cavatine.
Cavatine reflects Crozman’s artistic journey. The title of the album describes a simple solo song or aria. There are few that can make the cello sing like Crozman, but his playing is far from simple. He spins a phrase to evoke deep emotion and plays the virtuosic passages with pinpoint accuracy and assurance. It is not surprising that it contains exclusively French music.
I last heard Crozman in a recital at the Elora Summer Festival in 2017 where he performed a program of music inspired by song. At the time, I recall remarking that “he found the breathtakingly sonorous tonal colours” and that “the music was as uplifting as anything I have heard in a very long time”. That performance is still fresh in my memory. In both these albums, his artistry is even more apparent.
As for Crozman’s present activities while in social isolation, he has been recording his own transcriptions of piano music by overlaying tracks. His future may not be clearly mapped out, but he sees himself bringing a cultural context to the music he performs. In a conversation with him, he became quite animated in his visualization of performances within a context that brings fresh meaning to the music.
For an introduction to Cavatine follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lk-IO_leq8U
Both albums are available digitally on most streaming services. Cavatine can be purchased in hardcopy at Amazon.com.