I'm sure this album seemed like a good idea
to someone, sometime. There's no reason a cellist has to make
a recorded debut with, say, the Dvorák concerto or the two by
Haydn: it's hardly fair to measure a young artist against the
likes of Casals and Rostropovich, even by implication, and the
catalogues can't sustain the repertoire duplications, anyhow.
But this album, for all the effort that clearly went into it,
is a misconceived dud.
"Crossover" in the conventional sense - Broadway or
pops repertoire undertaken by a classical performer - can be tricky
to pull off: the opera singers, in particular, usually can't quite
muster the requisite command of varied styles. But it's assumed
that the individual selections will retain their stylistic integrity.
These arrangements go far beyond that, tossing together a mish-mash
of elements of various idioms, more or less willy-nilly. You can't
call it "fusion," because the disparate styles don't
"fuse" particularly well.
Worthington plays the mainstream classical selections respectably,
holding the vibrato within acceptable bounds, with only the occasional
slurpy portamento intruding. But her chosen program doesn't always
serve her. Neither the Flight of the Bumblebee
gains by being recast as a cello piece; they're
both taken rather moderately, and Worthington's tone turns small
and chirpy in the Mozart's highest phrases. The other classical
pieces have been arranged in a style best described as techno-Mantovani,
variously "enhanced" with accoutrements including wordless
chorus - possibly synthetic, although an actual chorus is credited
on the album. The coda of the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria
briefly into a minor-key episode irrelevant to either composer.
An exploratory, New Age-y introduction grafted on to Après
bumps awkwardly against Fauré's pristine harmonies.
Do the artists really think this sort of thing somehow revitalizes
the music for our time? A good, individually phrased straight
performance would better accomplish that.
Conversely, the pure pop-rock numbers, both originals and those
"inspired" by the classics, are the best things in the
program, with a variety of percussion crisply and infectiously
deployed. The pop songs vaguely inspired by Brahms's Wiegenlied
and the Rimsky piece would have been at least as effective divorced
from the comparatively unimpressive renderings of the originals.
The 'cello is more prominently featured than usual in this sort
of music; still, it's hardly "showcased," so these numbers
seem vaguely beside the point. And it might take a few bars to
recognize the theme of the traditional Break Bread Together
as it emerges from the faux
It's hard to judge the recorded quality of so conspicuous a "production,"
incorporating electronic sounds, pronounced directional effects,
and an occasionally engulfing echo. At least it isn't strident.
Stephen Francis Vasta