Jan Sciffer / Hans Ryckelynck

A Tribute to Frits Celis

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Though perhaps best known for his work as a Flemish opera conductor, Frits Celis was also an active and accomplished composer, dabbling in nearly all standard genres save for opera. This Phaedra album -- the impressive Vol. 60 in the "In Flanders' Fields" series focusing on Flemish composers and artists -- presents Celis' Op. 6 Sonata for cello and piano as well as the Op. 71 Sonata for cello solo. Written some 40 years apart, the two sonatas demonstrate the vast growth and change in Celis' writing style. The Op. 6 Sonata is more neo-Romantic in nature, with enjoyable melodies, warm interplay between the two instruments, and a clear structure. In contrast, the Op. 71 sonata rejects most formal notions and instead presents a vast tour de force of technical bravura for the solo cellist. Performing these two quite different works are cellist Sciffer and pianist Hans Ryckelynck, both of whom clearly posses the technical chops to deliver a convincing, attention-grabbing performance of these little-heard sonatas. The balance between piano and cello in the Op. 6 Sonata is well-conceived, and Sciffer's sound in the Solo Sonata is big and powerful, though perhaps a bit nasally in the middle registers of his instruments. The disc also includes the Sonata for cello and piano of French composer Louis Vierne, a much more expansive, Romantic composition reminiscent at times of the Franck A major Sonata. Phaedra's sound is clear and clean without seeming sterile.

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