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Double Concerto
Suite in D minor
Offrande for Strings
Your Grey-Blue Eyes
Arto Noras, Maud Martin Tortelier, Paul Tortelier
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Marlboro Music Festival, Ulster Orchestra
Recorded 1977/1978/1989/1999
CHAN 9898 [65.30]

This is a tribute not to Paul Tortelier the famous cellist, but to Tortelier the far less famous composer, and a very good one he was with very accessible music to his credit. He was an intensely family-orientated musician and father with gifted children, his son the violinist and conductor Yan Pascal, his daughters Maria de la Pau (a pianist) and Pomone (a singer), and his cellist wife Maud Martin Tortelier for whom he wrote the Double Concerto in 1950. A concerto for two cellos is uncommon and sometimes this one sounds as if rather than two players, one player is double-stopping. Its first movement shares the heroic characteristics of the Brahms Double (violin and cello that is) but this is also a work which traces the first years of Tortelier's love for his wife and their marriage with the second movement an emotionally romantic statement, whilst the boisterous finale is modelled on Hindemith's cello concerto of a few years earlier. In this recent recording (the only one made specifically for this disc) his widow is joined by the Finn Arto Noras and together they give a vibrantly colourful performance under Tortelier fils.

The Suite (1944) predictably shadows Bach for whom Tortelier had the greatest admiration (and coincidentally shared birthdays), and follows the conventional six-movement format and its dance forms after a Prelude. However this is not pastiche music but a genuine reflection of Tortelier's own individuality as a man and musician (he always threw himself more than wholeheartedly into both his musicmaking and his conversations to which unforgettable televised masterclasses bear witness) and fortunately it is his own very moving recording made at Abbey Road which is included here. The Offrande is a three-movement work written in 1970 for the Beethoven bicentenary, and sure enough there are glimpses of the great man's seventh and sixth symphonies in its last two movements. What we have here is a live recording from the 1989 Marlboro Music Festival, somewhat rough around the edges in places, with Tortelier (a year from death at 76) one of the two cellos of a string nonet. To conclude this cd there is a touching tribute from father to teen-age son in a two-minute Grappelli-like piece originally called Blues for piano and violin, but later re-scored for violin and strings (the version here) as a New Year greeting. The grey-blue eyes are those of his wife, and Tortelier at some point added words for his daughter to sing. He was indeed a family man and a great musician sorely missed.

Christopher Fifield



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