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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Cello! Celli! - Twenty Cellos Play Bach and Brubeck
Dave BRUBECK (b. 1920)
Elegy [7:45]
God's Love Made Visible (1975) [3:28]
Cello, Celli [11:25]
The Desert and the Parched Land (1979) [4:29]
Regret (2001) [7:11]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (1721) [16:02]
Jésus Christ! Je t'implore [2:57]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (1721) [11:49]
Yale Cellos/Aldo Parisot
rec. Morse Recital Hall, Sprague Memorial Hall, The School of Music, Yale University, Connecticut, 1-5 April 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557816 [65:10]

 

 

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! 

Between these 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.

Contrasting with 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.

Throughout the 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.

Tim Perry

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