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Jill Pasternak Recommends...

Russian Music for Cello & Piano
Wendy Warner, cello; Irina Nuzova, piano

The debut recording of the Warner/Nuzova duo, with cellist Wendy Warner and Russian-born pianist Irina Nuzova, is a breath of fresh air. Both are superior artists in their own right: Warner, a graduate of Curtis, wowed audiences time and again with her solo performances with orchestra and in recital, and Nuzova, a product of the Gnessin Academy of Music in Moscow, continued her studies at the Manhattan School of Music and Juilliard in New York. The duo makes its recording debut with five late-Romantic Russian works. Both artists play beautifully; they are intuitive and stylistically complementary throughout the entire disc.

Ms. Warner won fame studying with Mstislav Rostropovich. She continued that association after she won first prize at the 1990 International Rostropovich Competition, and performed with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Bamberg Symphony under his baton. She also played the Vivaldi concerto for two cellos with him. This album is, justifiably, dedicated to the memory of this famed cellist, composer, and conductor, who, Warner says, challenged her to reach new heights.

Warner and Nuzova were also influenced by two other famous Russian cellists: Gregor Piatagorsky, known and beloved as "Grisha," and one of the greatest cellists of the 20th century, and Anatoly Brandukov - cellist, teacher, and brilliant graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, as well as a theory student of Tchaikovsky. The young Sergei Rachmaninoff dedicated one of his few pieces of chamber music to Brandukov - the Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor, which is on this CD.

This is the first American recording of the Sonata No. 2 by the late 19th-century Russian composer Nicolai Miaskovsky. A nostalgic and pensive work, it is strangely compelling and comforting - its melancholy longing creating a surprising feeling of serenity.

The Musica Nostalgica of Alfred Schnittke was written with musical tongue-in- cheek for Rostropovich in 1992, and the Scriabin Etudes, modeled after works by Chopin, are beautifully satisfying. The Prokofiev, based on a set of piano pieces taken from his ballet Cinderella, is the only one of his piano scores transcribed for cello and piano. The Rachmaninoff is Rachmaninoff - never disappointing musically and virtuosically delivered by two women who have scored 100% in this beautiful debut release. It's a must have!--Jill

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Watch and Listen: Video interview with the artists