Naxos, along with
Telarc, has in recent years been doing much to promote the
music of Dave Brubeck the classical composer, the lesser known
alter ego of Dave Brubeck the jazz immortal. I had previously
heard some of his classical pieces for piano and a couple
of his choral works, but Brubeck for cello ensemble was an
unexpected proposition. The liner notes reveal the connection
between composer and ensemble to be genetic: Brubeck's son
is a cellist and was a student of Parisot.
The opening track,
Elegy, is a lovely work, full of late romantic pathos.
Think Rachmaninov for cello ensemble, with a simple minor
key melody wafting over a vaguely chromatic pizzicato bass.
The final track, Regret, is in a similar vein: wistful
and beautifully played. Originally composed for string orchestra,
this piece is well served by the mellow cello sound.
Three more tracks
make up the Brubeck component of the program. God's Love
Made Visible is a snappy and syncopated piece, drawn from
part of the final choral section of Brubeck's Christmas Cantata,
La Fiesta de la Posada. The Yale Cellos are all brightness
and energy in this track. The Desert and the Parched Land
is another work adapted from music originally written
for voice: here the cellos take up a melancholy soprano solo
from Brubeck's Mass To Hope!
two arrangements comes the album's title track. Cello,
Celli is the longest of the pieces by Brubeck included
here and is full of dropped accidentals and tonal ambiguity.
It is conceived in a contemporary neo-romantic idiom, that
falls somewhere between Copeland and Walton without really
sounding like either of them. It is perhaps over-long for
its thematic material and seems to meander a little, but given
this spirited performance it is hard to dislike. Cello,
Celli is the only work of those assembled here that Brubeck
initially conceived for cello ensemble. All of the Brubeck
compositions recorded here are deftly arranged, though, and
Brubeck rightly pays tribute in the liner notes to Derek Snyder,
who edited the arrangements.
the reflective opening and closing tracks, and framing the
central set of Brubeck compositions, are refreshing arrangements
of Bach. The first of these is a bright and bracing rendition
of the sixth Brandenburg Concerto. The arrangement
for cello ensemble is quite effective and played with such
gusto that criticism is disarmed. Only in the finale does
the high writing for cello result in some questionable intonation.
Generally, though, attacks are crisp, the tone is bright and
the performance an enjoyable novelty. The same comments apply
to the other Bach items.
Yale Cellos play with purpose and if there is some hazy intonation
in the upper registers from time to time, it is outweighed
by the verve that the ensemble brings to these pieces. The
sound is clear and not too heavy in the bass, though a little
more bloom would have been nice.
All up, a rewarding
disc that lovers of the cello will enjoy.