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Born in England to Sri Lankan parents, Rohan de Saram studied cello with Gaspar Cassadó, John Barbirolli and Pablo Casals and began his career playing mainstream repertoire, but is now highly acclaimed as a performer of new music. His sizeable discography represents contemporary music by an impressive array of composers from around the globe, several of whom have dedicated works to him; this includes the Sequenza XIV by Berio, who said of de Saram: ‘[…]your sound, your perfect intonation, your phrasing and bowing technique, make you a great performer of any music.’ For almost thirty years de Saram was a member of the renowned Arditti Quartet which, since 1974, has been influential in raising the profile of contemporary music. He also performs with AMM, a British improvisation group.

De Saram’s specialism is amply demonstrated by the works selected here, which show his highly confident grasp of often abstract works. Most accessible perhaps are the Britten Suite No. 2 (2000) and the Scodanibbio duo Escondido (2001), which display a refined tone, albeit (in the first movement of the Britten, for example) with a tendency towards wide, sometimes diffuse vibrato. In the Britten the Scherzo demonstrates fantastic articulation and clarity (although this is perhaps a little lacking at the lower end of the instrument’s range) whilst the second movement, Fuga, is maybe not as exciting as in other performances. Scodanibbio’s work—six movements, each for a different pairing of stringed instruments—evidences a great variety of characterisation, with some superlatively clear harmonics in Western Lands.

The examples of repertoire by Webern and Xenakis (1994–1993) are a little more abstract in nature, but show de Saram’s absolute commitment and ardent dramatisation: these are fine interpretations of challenging works both musically and technically. The selected Webern items are a ravishingly beautiful exploration of the composer’s small scale but finely detailed idiom.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)

Role: Classical Artist 
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