Naxos catalogue of titles representing the work of William Bolcom
must surely now be the strongest available, and this disc presents
all of the composer’s work for cello to date.
them chronologically, Décalage, as the composer freely
acknowledges, is heavily influenced by the music of Pierre Boulez.
The work’s basis has that feeling of serial angularity, but
you can sense Bolcom’s attraction to the natural sonority of
the instruments, and some inevitable, chance-like moments of
tonality are allowed through the web of notes as well. The piece
retains an attraction through speech-like patterns from the
cello, but does ‘date’ somewhat – very much a product of its
Music follows, described
as recalling ‘certain plays of Samuel Beckett, a world “of emotional
anomie and dissociation.”’ Listeners will have their own associations
to apply to this kind of piece, but the dry thudding of the
timpani, at times commented on my pizzicato from the cello,
the beats sometimes threaded together by glissandi, does conjure
a fairly grim and desolate musical landscape.
disc opens with Capriccio, the title only misleading
if you interpret it as meaning a work light in content. The
piece is constructed much in the way of a sonata, with four
clear movements. The opening is a fairly short and lively Allegro
con spirito, compared by the composer to one typical of
Milhaud. The other composer indicated is Brahms, whose spirit
lives to a certain extent in the elegiac second Molto adagio
espressivo and the third Like a barcarolle. This
third movement combines an atmospheric rhythmic movement with
bitter-sweet harmonies from the piano and expressive melodic
lines from both instruments. The final Gingando is a
marvellously itchy tango dance, the title being a marking often
used by Ernesto Nazareth, whose tangos were such that he was
considered the father of Brazilian music by Heitor Villa-Lobos.
This is a highly attractive piece, fully deserving its concert-hall
and recorded popularity.
Cello Sonata was written for Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax
while at Aspen, once again recalling Brahms in certain aspects,
but also making the combination with Schubert in terms of a
structural model. The opening movement has a light feel, mixing
serious musical statement with gentle parodies of a kind of
salon style of music. The second Adagio semplice is the
central movement for which the other two are very much orbiting
satellites. The deceptively simple, almost lullaby-like opening
soon develops into a tightly woven musical argument which contrasts
with intervals of fervently agitated interruption and variation.
The final movement is a compact rondo, a short ride on something
bouncy: in this performance somehow eluding the Sturm und
Drang the composer claims for it.
most recent piece is the Cello Suite No.1 in C minor,
whose title suggests the ‘complete’ title of this disc may be
short-lived. This is a substantial work for cello solo, expanding
on material the composer wrote for a stage production of Arthur
Miller’s play Broken Glass. Norman Fischer recorded the
stage score for these productions, and performed the première
of the complete Suite at Tanglewood in 1996. There are
some references to Bach in the Badinerie and Alla
sarabanda titles of two of the movements, and the composer
refers to the sombre mood of Bach’s C minor solo suite BWV 1011
in the nature of the music in his own Suite. One can
imagine the effectiveness of such pieces in setting the mood
of Miller’s play, and the lines and gestures of the piece seem
by turns to have a narrative, or a somewhat objective, commentary
role. As a piece of music it stands alone well enough but, Dark
Music aside, the Suite is one of the most serious
pieces in this programme, having more of a grey November feel
than anything else.
have no comparison recordings to hand when evaluating this disc,
but have no hesitation in recommending it either in terms of recorded
sound or performance. Norman Fischer is an excellent soloist with
a lighter touch than some, avoiding the kind of passionate scrubbing
and over-emphasis which can put one off entire programmes of cello
music. Collectors and fans of William Bolcom’s oeuvre can rejoice
in another bargain for the collection, and cellists in search
of challenging new repertoire should also be making a bee-line
for such an all-embracing recital.