SQUIRE Cello Miniatures
First, a declaration of interest. Like anyone who learnt the cello through the ABRSM’s exams, the miniatures of WH Squire are part of my youth. So as Tadashi Imai played the introduction to the Romance that opens this disc, I experienced something like a Proustian rush. Cellists, amateur and professional alike, will seize on this collection of 20 of Squire’s winsome cello-and-piano miniatures (at least a quarter of them premiere recordings) with delight.
But what about everyone else? Well, this is salon music, pure and simple. As Oliver Gledhill explains in his comprehensive booklet-notes, these pieces were written between 1890 and 1904 as recital items and for teaching purposes. They’re genre pieces, with titles like Harlequinade, Scène de bal and Danse rustique: they’re about melody and charm, designed to let a passably gifted cellist show what they can do in a congenial setting. Where they transcend genre is in their freshness. Squire never indulges in virtuosity for its own sake – and his melodic gift is modest but surprisingly memorable.
Gledhill clearly loves playing them. You might perhaps ask for a little more shading in his warm, handsome stream of tone, and Imai’s piano part is occasionally muffled. But, overall, these are affectionate performances, Gledhill making the most of Squire’s signature left-hand slides, throwing off the occasional fireworks (as in the miniature Hungarian rhapsody Tzig-Tzig) with delightful insouciance and strumming the pizzicato final chords of the Humoresque with a playful wink. Imai is a responsive partner and the pair have an unforced instinct for the ebb and flow of the slower pieces. In short, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had here – and not just for cellists.