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After inspired performance alongside András Schiff on the prize-winning recording of Beethoven’s Complete Music for Piano and Violoncello (Cannes Classical Award, Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik), and earlier important contributions to György Kurtág’s Music für Streichinstrumente, here is Miklós Perényi’s first ECM solo recital recording. The album was recorded in the exceptional acoustic of the Auditorio Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano, highly responsive to the Hungarian cellist’s sound and dynamic range. As Paul Griffiths writes, “Through Perényi’s artistry we come to understand how the sound of the cello – such a rich sound here, as natural as wood, with the grain and the strength of wood – cannot be separated from the composition being realized, nor the composition from its instrument. There is no music without sound, and there is no sound without music. Perényi’s sound speaks to us warmly and sagely and also humorously of the cello, of its sonorous possibilities, of its exceptionalness in western music as a solo instrument that addresses us from a low register, of its whole history and culture. We cannot forget for a moment that what we are hearing is cello sound, and the fine detail of this recording may even convince us at times that we are hearing the action of the cello being played. Yet in no way does this diminish our closeness to the music. On the contrary, the more we hear the sound, the more we hear the music.”

In juxtaposing, Benjamin Britten’s Third Suite op. 87 and Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite VI D-Major BWV 1012, Perenyi illuminates an historical interconnection. Britten wrote his cello suites for Rostropovich, inspired by hearing him playing the Bach suites. Rostropovich had hailed each of Britten’s cello suites as masterpieces but singled out the third (written 1971) for special praise: “sheer genius”, in his words. Into the fabric of the thematic material Britten wove fragments of melodies from Russian folk songs, only allowing them to emerge fully in the final movement. On this disc, Bach’s last cello suite follows Britten’s, and Perényi’s Bach dances with elegance and energy.

The album concludes with a return to Hungary, and Ligeti’s Cello Sonata of 1948-1953. Ligeti released the piece for publication only in 1979, so it figures in the chronology (as the liner notes point out) both before and after the Britten. Meanwhile a significant piece in the contemporary repertoire, it’s a powerful, heartfelt work from a composer who had himself studied the cello.

“Performer, teacher, composer: all three roles feature in the musical life of Miklós Perényi, one of Hungary’s greatest artists. A figure of true artistic stature.”
- The Strad

“Perényi is a consummate cellist who never constrains his limpidly beautiful tone, but has the most eloquent of ‘speaking’ bows and a vast range of articulations at his disposal.”
- BBC Music Magazine

Miklós Perényi’s distinctive and subtly nuanced sound is allied to extraordinary musicality, in repertoire ranging from the 17th century to the present.

Born in Hungary, Miklós Perényi began cello lessons at the age of five with Miklós Zsámboki, a student of David Popper. At nine, he gave his first concert in Budapest and went on to study between 1960 and 1964 with Enrico Mainardi in Rome and, in Budapest, with Ede Banda. In 1963 he was a prize-winner at the International Pablo Casals Cello Competition in Budapest. Casals invited him to his master classes in Puerto Rico in 1965 and 1966, and he went on to become a frequent visitor to the Marlboro Festival.

Since 1974 he has taught at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest, and has held a professorship there since 1980. He was honoured with the Kossuth-Prize in 1980 and the Bartók-Pásztory-Prize in 1987. Beyond performing and teaching, Perényi also devotes his energies to composition of works for solo cello and for instrumental ensembles of various sizes.

He has worked closely with András Schiff for more than 20 years. Recently, the duo played at Cologne’s Philharmonie, the Schwetzingen Festival, London’s Wigmore Hall and the 92nd Street in New York. Another frequent chamber music partners include pianist Dénes Várjon (who also has a solo recital disc, “Precipitando”, released by ECM New Series).

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