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The cello prodigy's return with 'Momentum'

Miriam K Smith's career picks up fresh 'Momentum.'

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Miriam K Smith & Sandra Wright Shen


Azica Records

Cello and piano make for two of the most comfortable musical bedfellows - at least when they are paired correctly. And if anyone doubts that, Momentum will clear up any lingering misapprehensions.

Duetting first, and so dramatically, through Prokofiev’s Cell Sonata in C Major; shifting then to Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne; and wrapping it all up with Boulanger’s Three Pieces For… , the teenaged Smith’s astonishing cello and Shen's so-sympathetic piano ensure that Smith's second album is as emotionally intricate as it is musically dramatic.

Her interpretation of the Prokofiev piece, written just a year after the composer’s music was banned in his native Soviet Union, is as defiant… even insouciant… as it was surely intended to be; and her Stravinsky effortlessly captures the piece’s roots in the ballet Pulcinella, its grace and buoyancy an irresistible invitation to dance.

The crowning glory, however, is her take on Boulanger, a Parisienne composer whose repertoire, as Smith’s own liner notes make clear, “is too small. She gave her life’s work to teaching.” The Three Pieces themselves are brief, barely eight minutes in length, but such stately grandeur is encapsulated therein that the instruments appear almost to be playing themselves.

Smith’s liners, too, are fascinating, explaining her choice of title for the album, and drawing parallels between the three composers. They are largely geographical. The performances here, however, uncover many more.