The adventurous label TRPTK produces special CDs all the time, and the Russian-Dutch cellist Maya Fridman is a regular guest. If I counted correctly, some eight CDs by – and with her – have already been released, some of them solo.
Recently the ninth disc appeared, on which she and the North Netherlands Orchestra (NNO) give a dazzling performance of two cello concertos by Jan-Peter de Graaff (1992).
De Graaff, born in 1992 in Papendrecht and raised on the island of Terschelling, loves the grand gesture. He decided to embrace the symphony orchestra against the advice of his composition teacher Martijn Padding, who considered it hopelessly outdated. Nor does De Graaff shy away from using equally ‘old-fashioned’ genres such as the concerto; he has already produced five of them.
Rimpelingen (Ripples), his Concerto No. 4 for cello and orchestra (2017), impressed cellist Maya Fridman so deeply that she asked De Graaff to write a new concerto for her. No wonder, because he lets the soloist explore all the possibilities of the instrument, while not skimping on beautiful melodies along the way.
De Graaff is a master at sculpting with sounds, loosely adhering to traditional harmonies without becoming predictable. Ripples is essentially an extended solo for the cello, subtly supported by interjections from the orchestra in ever changing colours, like ripples on a swaying water surface. His overwhelming wealth of ideas does at times put your attention to the test, though.
In Concerto No. 5, The Forest in April (2021) De Graaff again deftly folds the orchestral voices around a virtuoso, varied cello part. The piece is inspired by our destructive relationship with nature, which is expressed in a fierce battle between soloist and orchestra in the second movement. Ominous dissonant harmonies and thundering percussion seem to herald the Apocalypse here.
Fridman’s impassioned recitation is matched by the equally empathic and precise playing of the NNO conducted by Sander Teepen (No.4) and Nicolò Foron (No.5). The crisp and well-balanced recording technique gives their performance extra depth.