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Cellist Laura van der Heijden and pianist Jāms Coleman - Path to the Moon album - CD Review, February 26th, 2024

For their latest album, cellist Laura van der Heijden and pianist Jāms Coleman drew inspiration from the drawing of British illustrator and architect William Thomas Horton, "The Path to the Moon", which also serves as the title of the album released by Chandos Records. The two musicians explore the repertoire for cello and piano from the mid-20th century, a time when the idea of traveling to the moon became a reachable goal. "We sought to blend various scores around the themes of William Horton's imagery, the human aspiration to conquer new heights," says cellist Laura van der Heijden about this album, which includes works by Erich Korngold, George Walker, Lili Boulanger, Florence Price, Gabriel Fauré, Nina Simone, Benjamin Britten, Tōru Takemitsu, and Claude Debussy.

One of the most extensive and complex works on this album, recorded in March 2023 at Potton Hall in Dunwich, is George Walker's Sonata for Cello and Piano, a composer and pianist who lived between 1922 and 2018 and was the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. In recent years, his creations have sparked particular interest among performers, a good example is cellist Laura van der Heijden, who confesses: "When we discovered George Walker's music, we were drawn to his Sonata for Cello and Piano, which combines elements of romanticism with modernism, blues with jazz influences. We believe this sonata deserves a place in the chamber music repertoire, and we are delighted that it fits into the thematic journey Path to the Moon."

Also included on the same album is Claude Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano composed in 1915. The work opens with a Prologue announcing the main theme of the piece, a tribute by Claude Debussy to the French Baroque style, through rich ornamentation in the manner of composers Jean-Philippe Rameau and Franēois Couperin. It is followed by the second part - a Serenade filled with strange and enigmatic harmonies, and the Finale is more fluent and animated, creating a refined contrast with the previous section. Highlighting these attributes of Claude Debussy's sonata, cellist Laura van der Heijden and pianist Jāms Coleman offer us a fine and smooth interpretation, rich in nuances, effects, and timbral colors.

Laura van der Heijden and pianist Jāms Coleman are activeboth on stage and in recording studios in the UK. They have recently released together an album in February 2022, featuring chamber pieces from Czech and Hungarian repertoire. Laura van der Heijden, winner of the Edison Klassik and BBC Music Magazine awards, has performed as a soloist with prestigious ensembles such as the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, English Chamber Orchestra, or Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and she is passionate about chamber music. She has given recitals in most major venues in the UK, playing on a valuable Francesco Ruggieri cello from the 17th century.

Appreciated by the BBC Music Magazine for his "extraordinary interpretative style - varied and imaginative," Welsh pianist Jāms Coleman has an intense activity in the field of chamber music and is an associate professor at the Royal Academy of Music, where he completed his studies. He has collaborated with famouse artists of the British scene, Laura van Der Heijden being one of the instrumentalists with whom he carries out successful projects.

Larisa Clempuș