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by Richard Locker

A magnificent and diverse collection of classical works including many new and unusual transcriptions; Richard Locker demonstrates the gifts that have kept him at the top of the world's most competitive music scene for 40 years.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Largo in G Major, No. G5. (Arr. Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
3:21 $0.99
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2. Mosé. Variations Di Bravura, Ms 23. (Arr. Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
8:19 $0.99
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3. La Sonnambula, Act 2, Ah Non Credea Mirarti, (Arr. Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
4:00 $0.99
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4. La Sonnambula, Act 2, Ah, Non Giunge, (Arr. Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
3:30 $0.99
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5. Tosca, Act 3, E Lucevan Le Stelle, (Arr. Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
3:28 $0.99
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6. Caprice Op. 1 No. 20, (Arr. Violoncello)
Richard Locker
4:27 $0.99
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7. Caprice, Op. 1 No. 21, (Arr Violoncello)
Richard Locker
3:43 $0.99
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8. Cadenza for Viola Solo, 1984, (Arr. Violoncello)
Richard Locker
6:09 $0.99
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9. Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64, Death of Juliet (Arr. Violoncello & Piano
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
7:10 $0.99
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10. La Plus Que Lent, L. 121, (Arr Violoncello and Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
4:08 $0.99
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11. La Fontaine D'arethuse, Op. 30 (Arr. Violoncello and Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
5:22 $0.99
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12. Trauermusik (1936) (Arr. Violoncello and Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
7:32 $0.99
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13. Nocturne in E-Flat, Op. 9, No. 2 (Arr. Popper for Violoncello & Piano)
Richard Locker & Martha Locker
4:28 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
If you acquired any of Locker’s previously reviewed releases, you know that he is a cellist with the technique to play anything of his choosing. As importantly, he is an artist with the musical insight and sensitivity to invest anything of his choosing with heart and soul, and he does so again, and as always, here in this new album. Jerry Dubins, Fanfare Magazine

“Not only is Mr. Locker and exceptionally clean player: he also cultivates an incisive interpretive style…..Temperamentally, he tends towards lyric introspection, but without slackening the line or shying away from necessary climaxes.”
Joseph Horowitz, NY Times

“…a musician with a thoughtful temperament and one who communicates ideas with emotion. He was especially successful with the Debussy Sonata, an interpretation that fully explored the fantasy elements of the score, yet one that also commanded attention for its incisive rhetoric and keen sense of drama. Nor was there any dearth of vitality or expressive warmth in his treatment in Brahms’ tenderly lyrical Sonata in D, Op. 78, a transcription from the violin original.”
Peter G. Davis, NY Times

"....memorable for its intensity and beautiful tone.”
Harriet Johnson, NY Post

Since the early 1970s, cellist Richard Locker has set a gold standard on his instrument. His playing is clean, precise, rich in color and texture, and fiercely mindful of the composer’s intentions; but Locker’s primary goal is to express the emotional content of each piece with style and taste. His interpretations are as dramatically gripping as they are musically keen. Reviewing his 1979 solo recital debut, Peter G. Davis wrote in the New York Times: “There was always an absorbingly committed quality to his playing that conveyed much of the substance beneath the notes.”
Locker has served as first cellist in some of the most distinguished ensembles in New York, while building a career as a first-call session musician who can play in any genre. His albums have creative themes and unusual repertoire. The two volumes of Jewish Cello Masterpieces shine a light on the cello’s sprawling Jewish heritage; Cello Music of Randall Svane explores a composer born in Locker’s native Pittsburgh. On Masterpieces in Transcription, the cellist performs pieces written for other instruments or for orchestra.
This new disk comprises a wish-list of works he had accumulated over the years and yearned to record. They come from chamber music, opera, and from the repertoires of cellists, violinists, violists, and pianists who inspired him. He is accompanied by his niece, Martha Locker, a Juilliard-educated chamber pianist and soloist. “She can play anything,” says Richard, “and she’s a superior artist and wonderful colleague.”
Locker was born to what a local critic called “Pittsburgh’s musically distinguished Locker family.” His mother, Libby Locker, was a beloved piano teacher; his father ran a record business. Of their six children, three became musicians; Richard began playing cello at age nine. In a home full of records, those of Emanuel Feuermann and Pablo Casals made a life-changing impact on him. “Casals was so influential that there came a point when I had to stop listening to him or risk becoming an imitator. While he was a great virtuoso, especially as a young man, he had a depth of expression and musical understanding that transcended technique. For me, Feuermann’s most distinguishing characteristics were his elegant, understated style and a beauty of tone and technique that have never been equaled.”
At fifteen, Locker made his solo debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Five years later he became the principle cellist of Manhattan’s Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra. At a performance with that group in Amsterdam, Locker made his European debut as a soloist. From there he became first cellist with the Mostly Mozart Festival of Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, while soloing with other orchestras and presenting solo and chamber recitals. Before he was thirty, Locker had been hailed by critics as “one of the most satisfying cellists of his generation” and a “true young master.”
The proof lies partly in his versatility. Locker’s thousands of recordings as a session player have ranged from Walter Murphy’s number-one disco hit “A Fifth of Beethoven” to the 1984 remake of West Side Story, conducted by Leonard Bernstein. His resume also includes albums by Elvis Costello, McCoy Tyner, Pinchas Zuckerman, and countless other artists; and the soundtracks of over 150 Hollywood films.
But this album is the ultimate display of his artistic sensibility. The oldest piece in the collection, Boccherini’s Largo in G (1766), is the first movement of the composer’s Sonata No. 3 in G Major for two cellos. The largo showcases his dusky low tones and crystalline highs, his elegant but deeply-felt approach, and his rapt concentration. Intermittently throughout the piece, two cello lines are played in harmony. Explains Locker: “The open-string double-stops enhance the ornamentation and add richness in the first movement.”
Paganini based his Variations on One String on a Theme by Rossini on a melody from the opera Moses in Egypt. Played here solely on the cello’s A-string, these classic variations range from sly and playful to high-flying and virtuosic. Locker spotlights each segment’s distinct mood and style.
He salutes his love of opera in several transcriptions of Italian arias. “I studied the texts,” he says. “I enjoyed the idea of trying to inflect the cello line as if it were spoken words.” He brings that expressiveness to the two main soprano arias from Bellini’s La Sonnambula (1831): Ah! Non credea mirarti (the heroine’s eerily calm sleepwalking scene) and Ah! Non giunge (the opera’s happy ending).
While learning the music for the anguished tenor aria E lucevan le stelle from Tosca (1899), Locker listened to Caruso’s several recordings of the piece. In the cello quartet that opens the performance here, Locker supplies all parts. They include “one of the most difficult instrumental solos in opera,” he says. “The principle cellist suffers in anticipating it.” He then plays the aria itself, using the piano-voice reduction by Carlo Carignani, a singing teacher and friend of Puccini’s.
From Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin (1820) come these two transcriptions for cello. In No. 20, the D-string drones behind a melody played on the A-string, creating a bagpipe effect. A daredevil run of sixteenth-notes is embellished by trills, octaves, and harmonics. No. 21 starts with a lyrical tune played in double-stop sixths; it is followed by a flying staccato passage, played up-bow. Paganini didn’t reign in his imagination, and the caprices are a great challenge to play correctly. To achieve that, says Locker, “is like magic. You’re doing the impossible.”
The same could be said of Penderecki’s Cadenza for Viola Solo (1984), written as an addendum to his viola concerto. A piece with neither meter nor bar lines, it starts and ends with a chromatic sigh that is embroidered upon, widened, and intensified. A vivace segment arrives to brighten the mood.
Says Locker of Prokofiev’s score for the ballet Romeo and Juliet (1935-1936): “In my opinion it’s one of his greatest works, if not the greatest. It’s modern but romantic music, so beautiful and emotional.” Despite the tragic finale of the story—Juliet commits suicide upon discovering the suicide of Romeo—Death of Juliet is calmly controlled and dignified. Locker’s performance is based on a 1977 transcription for viola and piano by the Soviet violist Vadim Borisovsky; David Oistrakh’s riveting version made Locker want to play the piece.
It was a Jascha Heifetz recording that inspired him to learn Debussy’s 1910 waltz for solo piano, La plus que lente (Slower Than Slow). “It’s one of Heifetz’s masterpiece performances. I guess that’s why I play, for the most part; I hear something great like that and I want to do it myself.” The piece is marked by a languid, voluptuous lyricism; Locker exploits it fully.
A recording by violinist Jacques Thibaud alerted him to Szymanowski’s La Fontaine d’Aréthuse, from Myths: Three Poems for Violin and Piano, Op. 30 (1915). Arethusa was a nymph from Greek mythology; while fleeing the overtures of the god Alpheis, she is transformed into a spring. As Martha simulates the gentle rippling of the water, Richard plays a soaring, arching melody line with a wide dynamic range, shivering tremolos, myriad tonal shadings, and sudden bursts of drama.
A somber tone infuses Hindemith’s Trauermusik (Mourning Music), a 1936 suite for viola and string orchestra. Its four brief movements memorialize Britain’s King George V, who had died the night before it was written. In the stark introductory statement, Martha’s silences speak as powerfully as the notes. Richard’s solos are aching and introspective.
Chopin’s Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 (c.1831) is one of the most instantly recognizable works in classical music. Locker calls the Pablo Casals performance “one of the main inspirations in my life.” Over a waltz-like accompaniment, the stately melody dances along as gracefully as a ballerina; it is adorned by trills and other decorations, and makes a series of delicate leaps. Locker executes them with ultimate finesse and an ease borne of intense study, thought, and practice. It’s the approach he takes to every composition he plays.

—James Gavin, New York City, 2019

[James Gavin is the two-time winner of ASCAP’s Deems Taylor-Virgil Thomson Award for excellent in music journalism; his books include biographies of Peggy Lee, Chet Baker, and Lena Horne.]

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