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Twentieth Century Works for Cello and Strings
Witold LUTOSŁAWSKI (1913-1994) Grave - Metamorphoses for cello and string orchestra (1981) [6:21]
Elizabeth MACONCHY (1907-1994) Epyllion (1975) [17:21]
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963) Trauermusik (1936) [8:21]
Paul PATTERSON (b. 1947) Cello Concerto op. 90 (2002) [24:27]
Mark KOPYTMAN (b.1929) Kaddish (1966, orch. 1982) [15:02]
Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim/William Boughton
rec. Evangelische Laurentiuskirche, Amthof, Oberderdingen, Germany, 22-24 November 2006. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5815 [71:45]

This is quite a miscellaneous anthology spanning styles and formats but united by the cello and string orchestra specification.

It runs the gamut starting with the Lutosławski Grave, with its grunting and grating earnestness of purpose, sombre melodic contours and peace-suffused epilogue. Maconchy studied with Holst and RVW. Her Epyllion was written deep in the atonal mists of the 1970s. I recall hearing it broadcast by Christopher van Kampen on BBC Radio 3 shortly after its premiere. It is for solo and fifteen strings - two more than the forces stipulated for the Lutosławski. Epyllion means little epic. It is in a single crepuscular span in which the sounds of buzzing shimmer, bristle and shiver. This music sometimes has a  Ravel-like patter contrasted with a rapid Bartókian angularity and an anxious neon glare. Hindemith's Trauermusilk was written at breakneck speed for the death of King George V but as most plausibly suggested by Calum Macdonald this piece may well have more to do with the then contemporary tragedy and outrage of politics in Germany. I could not see any explanation as to how this cello version of the work originally written for viola and orchestra came into being. Paul Patterson's concerto is in two movements. It is a passionate piece and at approaching 25 minutes is the longest work here. There is a chaste and otherworldly feel to the string writing which sounds vaguely Sibelian. Its overarching reticence is emphasised by the heated passion borne by the cello solo line. There is some lovely quasi-Dowland pizzicato in the second section at 1:41 onwards. This soon develops into a jerky rhythmic dance recalling RVW and Rozsa. It ends with writing and playing of slashing panache. Kopytman is a Russian-born Jew who came to live in Israel in 1971. Kaddish was written in Russia. It was initially for cello and piano. Kaddish is the prayer said as part of the mourning rituals. This one is not especially mournful - serious enough but it certainly has urgency, dance-like brio and brilliance.

The disc is supported by excellent liner-notes.

Rob Barnett


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