Setting up exactly the right atmosphere in a compilation disc of this nature requires musicians of exceptional technical skill, as well as a capacity to communicate an active enjoyment both of the music an the experience of playing together. These qualities are in abundance here, the chemistry between Wang and Söllscher producing performances that are extremely polished but spontaneous in this intimately recorded programme.
Record Review /
BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. August 2007
. . . be in no doubt that this collection is driven by Wang's musical and emotional heritage, and it's an unlikely mix of songs with special childhood significance alongside personal favourites. The combination of cello and guitar does work very sweetly for much of the material . . . The guitarist has turned arranger for many of these familiar melodies, including a charming version of "Salut d'amour", but it's his passion for Piazzolla that won me over.
Record Review /
Classic FM (London) / 01. September 2007
"Reverie" is indeed a collection of fragrant petals, albeit far from dry. The works are well chosen, sensitively arranged and tastefully ordered. More importantly, though, the playing is exquisite. Rarely have I heard Wang so beautifully restrained; rarely have I heard Söllscher so naturally expressive . . . their individual timbres and modes of tone production provide a wealth of variety. Falla's "Danza espanola" No. 1 and "Nana" (from his "Siete canciones populares espanolas") combine to form the ideal exordium, immediately grabbing the listener's attention while providing a perfect summary of the whole disc. The vibrant colours and exciting rhythms of the "Danza" become muted and yet more emotionally dense in the song, Wang matching the weight of his tone to Söllscher's feathery harmonics while sacrificing nothing in terms of intensity. The effect is mesmerising . . . Many examples of each artist's sensitivity to the other follow, Piazzolla's "Milonga del ángel" and the famous "Sicilienne" among the best. But really there are no disappointments. Even the base metal of "Memory" from "Cats", with which the disc ends, is transformed into pure gold.
Record Review /
Gramophone (London) / 01. October 2007
A Perfect Pairing
Reverie can suggest melancholy as well as dreams, but this collaboration between Jian Wang and Göran Söllscher is a happy combination of instruments and musical personalities.
When Jian was offered a chance to choose his favourite repertoire for a new recording, he wanted to get away from the predictable pairing of cello and piano. “I thought it would be nice to have some other instrumentation, and the guitar was my first choice because of its extremely intimate sound." He knew he might have to adapt his technique to complement the guitar: “To make the recording I practised for a few months consciously to capture a different sound from the cello. I tried to match the purity and the simplicity of the guitar. If I used too much vibrato, it sounded too rich and dramatic and covered the guitar completely."
Göran Söllscher was delighted to be asked to work with Jian Wang, whose musical sensibility fits his own exactly. “Although he can be a big Romantic player, he also has a kind of pure, Asian approach to music which I really appreciate."
Jian's choice of repertoire reflects various periods of his life - his childhood in China, his student days in America, and discoveries he has made in his adult life. The Chinese folksong by Liu Rong Fa, for instance, was the very first piece he performed, not just in public but in front of the Boston Symphony Orchestra! “I was nine years old, and I went on stage for the first time to play this very well-known melody with the piano. It was 1978, right after the Cultural Revolution, and music was allowed again. So the visit of the Boston Symphony Orchestra to China was a very significant event." The performance went well, and afterwards a member of the Boston cello section came up and praised him (“I didn't understand a word, of course") and gave him a score of a Brahms sonata. “Of course it was too difficult for me, but I still have the score today - and I can play it. The whole experience was very encouraging and gave me a lot of confidence."
The Sicilienne has a special significance for Jian in this selection. He says: “I don't know how many times I played it when I was a kid. It was my father's favourite, and later the favourite of my teacher Aldo Parisot. I've included it on the disc for them." There was some surprise, however, over his choice of “Memory" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats. “I don't care. I just loved the piece from the first time I heard it in New York," says Jian. “It touched me for some reason. And I especially love it played on the cello."
These two players manage to conjure up a huge variety of moods during the course of a single disc. As Söllscher says: “We had to find pieces that we both liked playing, and which worked. We had some favourites that didn't sound right, because the guitar and cello are in the same range, and generally either the cello or the guitar has to be on top." Does he mind that in this case it's usually the cello? “Not at all, because Jian Wang is such a nice guy! He could play any instrument and we could make music together."
Söllscher, who as well as releasing many solo discs, has recorded with international soloists such as violinist Gil Shaham and flautist Patrick Gallois, is responsible for most of the arrangements on the disc. It's quite a task when the original instruments range from the piano to the bandoneon. How does he do it? “To transcribe a piano piece, it's not enough just to have the guitar play all the same notes; you also have to make it sound like a guitar piece. That's the difficult, as well as the fun, part: there are certain things that really don't work on a guitar. Maybe after many years you find the tricks. Villa-Lobos, for example, was a master at making the guitar really sound its best. You can see what he did and try for the same solution." To give a variety of colour to the arrangements, Söllscher uses both a six-string and an eleven-string guitar. Of the latter, he remarks: “It's tuned like a Renaissance lute. I normally use it for old music, but it also works well for arrangements of piano music."
Jian Wang and Göran Söllscher share a passion for Piazzolla, two of whose works are included here. The guitarist had already recorded a Piazzolla album called Piazzolla for Two, but it took Jian a while to come round to the Argentinian composer's subtle charms. “When I first heard his pieces I wasn't sure why people were so in love with them. That was until I heard this milonga being played on piano and bandoneon. That completely changed me, and from then on Piazzolla became for me one of the greatest composers! So I told Göran, I don't know what you have to do with it - change this or that - but you have to play this piece with me!" He says he was attracted to the melancholy at the heart of the music, which never descends into sentimentality. “I come from a culture that is more touched by a person trying to hide his sadness than showing it. I don't like to wear my heart on my sleeve."
Could this disposition have influenced his choice of instrument? “I didn't have a choice - my father was a cellist, and that's what he gave me to play. So I don't know if the cello has influenced my character, or my character influences my playing." What he does know is that making this recording has also enriched his playing of the classical repertoire. “It's been a very good, very enjoyable experience. Playing with the guitar has helped me to discover a lot of new colours and atmospheres."