REVIEWS:  divine art dda 25002 A Celebration of Cellos


A disc of unknown music for three and (mostly) four cellos may not seem among the most obvious proposals for inclusion on your must-buy list of CDs, but this one simply demands to be heard and enjoyed, in the same deep glow of warm contentment as comes from a glass of Laphroaig taken in a leather chair in front of a roaring log fire on a winter evening. One might imagine that the sound of cello ensemble might pall when extended over an hour, but not a bit of it; the repertoire has been skilfully chosen to show off the sheer richness of the sound of a cello quartet, and this listener has played the disc again and again with enchantment growing apace on each occasion.

That repertoire will require some explanation; Enrico Mainardi and Joaquin Rodrigo are the only names here you are likely to recognise, though I have to admit that this gentle, achingly lovely Notturno is the first piece of Mainardi’s I recall hearing, and Rodrigo’s Dos Piezas is hardly the best explored corner of his catalog……Marie Dare was..plainly capable of a delicate melodic line and some beautiful harmonies – the Elegie, for example, is a moving exercise in emotional restraint. The Quartet for Cellos by Nigel Don is similarly discreet, though with a hint of warm humor. And the Serenade by Anita Hewitt-Jones and the three-cello Rumba of Michael Norris are easygoing miniatures of little weight but considerable charm. All in all, a most endearing disc.
Martin Anderson

Cello Spice is a cello ensemble which can include up to 32 instruments. On A Celebration of Cellos there are four players: Mark Bailey, Gillian Copp, John Davidson and Allison Lawrance. All are fine virtuosos, as can be heard on this recording.

Although there had not been a great deal of music written for multiple cellos in the past, some was composed in the 20th century and a great deal more is becoming available each year of the 21st. Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto (1690-1783), however, was one of the first composers to consider the cello a solo instrument and he wrote music to be played by more than one cello. An Italian of Jewish descent, he immigrated to England, where he became an important Classical player and a well-respected composer of cello music. He wrote the Trio No. 2 sometime around 1740 or 1741. His music is not very difficult and I think his melodic trio might be good for student recitals.

From the 18th century we skip to the 20th. The Suite for Four Cellos by Walther Aeschbacher (1901-1969) begins with an interesting melodic first movement followed by contemplative close harmony in the second movement and strong debate between all four cellos in the third. The final movement seems to be a child of its time, 1941, because it is pessimistic and its resolution is less than satisfying. Four cellos playing Enrico Mainardi's evocation of night gives the piece a dense texture a smooth lyricism that is not easily forgotten. I loved the "heavy lifting" cello sounds that undergird the melody at the beginning of Scottish composer Nigel Don's Cello Quartet. This piece was written in 1972, but its melodic base looks forward to our own century. Another Scot, Marie Dare, wrote Six Pieces for Cello Quartet in the late 1950s. Only the first, "Elegie," was published. The others are still held in the archive of the Scottish Music Information Centre. "Chant" is a melodic song as is "Aria." "Valse" and the "Rustic Dance" invite slow dancing, and "A Day-Dream" is exactly that, a soft, expressive work that encourages dreaming.

Joaquin Roderigo's Two Courtly Pieces for an orchestra of cellos really ask for a cello quartet and that is what Cello Spice gives them. Rodrigo's composition calls forth a colorful and tuneful Spanish ambience with familiar rhythms, colorful phrasing, and a passionate melodic dialogue be­tween the four instruments. Anita Hewitt-Jones's Spanish Dance is another sprightly piece with an Iberian flavor. Michael Norris's Afro-Cuban style Rumba is actually a work originally written for the composer's own instrument, the bassoon. Here, it is in an enchanting version for three cellos.

Cello Spice is a group of virtuosos who prove their mastery with this delightful recording. Divine Art's sound is clear and crisp despite the recording having been made in a church. I really en­joyed this festival of cello music and think that cellists, cello students, and those that just love the sound of the instrument will want to own this disc.
Maria Nockin

Music for multiple cellos is a genre mostly practised by cellist - composers who appreciate the remarkable sonority of the medium. I have spent some happy times exploring the genre with colleagues. Here is an esoteric collection of mainly 20 th century works, beginning with the 18 th century Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto, whose opus 1 consists of six cello trios. 2 in B-flat is an attractive piece where the upper two lines are the soloists, the bottom a basso continuo, played without keyboard continuo in this performance.

Walther Aeschbacher (1901-69) was a Swiss cellist-conductor-composer. His suite of 1941 has the resonant sonority characteristic of the medium and an imaginative use of romantic harmony and counterpoint. Enrico Mainardi (1897-1976) was a famous cellist. His Notturno is a richly sonorous work. Joaquin Rodrigo is represented by a little-known pair of miniatures, well contrasted in style and technique.

Cello Spice is a Scottish group, and the rest of the program is by Scottish composers. First is a comprehensive collection by composer-cellist Marie Dare (1902-76). For those interested, a collection of her works for cello and piano is on ASV6245. Her music is meditative and evokes her country in a beautiful way. Then comes a 1992 Quartet by Nigel Don (b.1954), a romantic and occasionally witty work. Anita Hewitt-Jones (b.1926) writes a sweet and sunny Spanish Serenade, and the program closes with Michael Norris (b.1934) whose “Rumba” was originally for three bassoons. Though the music and the performances are generally low-key, this is a most attractive and unusual collection