Paul Reale: Chopin's Ghosts - works for cello and piano. © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc

CD Spotlight

Particularly Arresting

Further music by the recently deceased American composer Paul Reale impresses GEOFF PEARCE

'Although these works are in an unmistakably modern idiom, they are exciting, fresh and performed with panache.'


A composer that I always find engaging and interesting is Paul Reale (1943-2020). On this disc, the music presented for cello and piano is performed to perfection and will provide cellists with great new works to perform.

The first four tracks on this disc are the Durch die Jahreszeiten II (German Folk songs) from 2013. These pieces are very brief, all less than ninety seconds in duration. In the tradition of Kodály and Bartók, the sources are always discernible but cloaked within the composer's recognisable style. Although these works are in an unmistakably modern idiom, they are exciting, fresh and performed with panache.

Listen — Paul Reale: Alle Vogel (Durch die Jahreszeiten II)
(track 2, 0:23-0:45) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Chopin's Ghost (Cello Sonata No 2) was written in 2017. This is the first recording. It is a substantial four-movement work lasting a little over sixteen minutes. The composer professed an affection for the very late Chopin Cello Sonata and he incorporated elements from this into his own work, using his own unique musical language, including a deconstructed chorale which appears in the first movement, 'Chorale Gone Bad'. Some of this appears in the last movement as well. I find the best way to appreciate this music is simply to listen and not try and work out just what is actually happening. There are moments of considerable intensity as well as great beauty here and the textures produced, while quite complex in nature, are not a hindrance to appreciating this fine work. You are not going to be walking down the street whistling or humming any of the melodies, but you won't be alienated by them either. I am particularly drawn to the second and third movements of this sonata.

Listen — Paul Reale: Reflection (Chopin's Ghost)
(track 6, 0:00-0:45) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Séance, composed in 1973-4, and in this performance, revised by the cellist in this recording in 2017, was the composer's first work for cello. Paul Reale commented: 'The title summons up ghosts and the unseen and makes use of all the sound effects so popular in the 70s while retaining melodies that are almost Baroque in character, suggesting gestures that recall the J S Bach Cello Suites'. This innovative nine-minute work for cello alone is quite fascinating and the performance is heartfelt and quite astounding.

Listen — Paul Reale: Séance
(track 9, 3:54-4:51) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

The Cello Sonata No 1 (1983, revised 2015) is in five movements entitled: Overture, Recit 1, Aria, Recit 2 and Finale. This lovely work has been recorded before and I would think in time it will be beloved of cellists everywhere. The pianist is pushed to the limit. There are some beautiful passages in this sonata, and it has immediate appeal to me, especially the first and last movements. What shall we do with the Drunken Sailor? forms the backbone of the last movement. The Aria also is particularly arresting.

Listen — Paul Reale: Aria (Cello Sonata No 1)
(track 12, 3:43-4:31) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Listen — Paul Reale: Finale (Cello Sonata No 1)
(track 14, 0:00-0:48) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

Wexford Carol (2004) is a six-minute work that is also easy on the ear and filled with quite a variety of moods and textures so one is never bored. Thematic material is drawn from the Irish carol of that name and encased in Reale's own distinct musical language.

Listen — Paul Reale: Wexford Carol
(track 15, 4:52-5:39) © 2018 Naxos Rights US Inc :

This disc may not appeal to everyone, but I think that those who do listen to it will gain a lot of pleasure, not least for the very fine partnership between the two artists. The works require considerable technical accomplishment, attention to detail and a lot of collaboration. These artists achieve this rare balance. A fantastic addition to the cello and piano repertoire.

Copyright © 24 September 2020 Geoff Pearce,
Sydney, Australia








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