The Franco-Belgian cellist’s programme pays tribute to people’s ability to triumph over adversity, create harmony in place of chaos, and overcome hatred with love. It presents the world premiere recording of Fazil Say’s concerto Never Give Up, a response to terrorist attacks in Paris and Istanbul written for and premiered by Thomas, and also includes an exquisite selection of songs, prayers and laments, Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, Purcell’s “When I am laid in earth” and Ravel’s Kaddisch among them.
The centre piece of her album, Never Give Up, began life in 2014 with the first meeting between the young cellist and Turkish composer and pianist Fazil Say, known for his outspoken political convictions as well as his wide-ranging artistry. Never Give Up, like his earlier Gezi Park trilogy, is a political statement made through music –a plea to world leaders not to surrender to terrorism and violence. This dramatic work sends the cello’s voice in search of peace, soaring high above orchestral depictions of conflict. In the end, as she explains, Fazil Say“leads us away towards the light, to Nature, with its sounds of water and birdsong, and towards the idea that we must never give up hope on humanity and beauty”.
Camille Thomas, the first female cellist to sign an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon for over four decades, is a born communicator, fluent in French, German and English and acclaimed for the eloquence and warmth of her playing. Having recorded the songs, prayers and laments for Voice of Hope with the Brussels Philharmonic under the direction of the young French conductor, violist and composer Mathieu Herzog, she returned to the Belgian capital to complete the album with the Brussels Philharmonic and its music director Stéphane Denève, recording Say’s Never Give Upon the “Feuermann” Stradivarius, built in 1730 and once owned by the great cellist Emanuel Feuermann.
Her selection of music mirrors her desire to move people through compositions that express a sense of peace and love. The album opens with violinist Richard Tognetti’s transcription of Maurice Ravel’s “Kaddisch”and unfolds with arrangements and adaptations by Mathieu Herzog and others of “When I am laid in earth”from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, “Träume” from Wagner’s Wesendonck-Lieder,“ Casta diva” from Bellini’s Norma, “Pourquoi me réveiller” from Massenet’s Werther and “Una furtiva lagrima” from Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, operatic pieces originally conceived for the human voice.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the raw, physical emotion that a voice can convey, and it goes far beyond any form of intellectual comprehension,” comments Camille Thomas. “With each note I produce on my instrument, I have always tried to reproduce a voice, one that sings, talks, murmurs... a voice that shouts and loves.”