Vocalise: Cello Interpretations by Caroline Worthington
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
1. Vocalise [1915] (6:36)

2. Break Bread Together (4:35)
3. Say What (5:29)
Charles VEAL Jr. (d. 2009)
4. Lament - In Memory of JFK Jr. (5:42)
5. Wiegenlied (after Brahms) (2:39)
6. Wiegenlied (5:47)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
7. Die Zauberflöte "Queen of the Night" [1791] (3:23)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
8. Suite No. 3: Air [1729-31] (6:26)
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
9. Après un rêve [1878] (4:22)
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
10. Serse - Largo [1738] (5:27)
11. As (5:32)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
12. Ave Maria (after J.S. Bach) [1859] (5:09)
Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
13. Adagio (3:31)
Nikolay RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
14. Tsar Saltan: Flight of the Bumblebee [1899] (6:55)
Caroline Worthington (cello)
Gigi McLean (vocal: 2, 11 & 12)
Charles Veal, Jr. (vocal: 3, 11 & 13)
Jerome Malery (piano: 7)
Jerry Peters (piano: 5 & 9; organ: 12)
Forrest Bardner (vocal: 11)
Thelma Houston (vocal: 11)
Lori Andrews (harp: 12)
The Second Power (14)
South Central Chamber Orchestra and Chorus
recording data not given
MSR CLASSICS MS 1202 [71:26]

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 nor Der Hölle Rache 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 ducks briefly into a minor-key episode irrelevant to either composer. An exploratory, New Age-y introduction grafted on to Après un rêve 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 strings-and-piano texture.

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

A misconceived dud.