Trio Casals Plays Modern Works

cover NV6341

HETZ: Sarajevo Cellist. SCHROEDER: Glimmer. PATERNITI: Notturno / Ovidiu Marinescu, cel; Anna Kislitsyna, pno / KRAMER: Vanishing Perspectives / Marinescu, cel / BRIDGES: 3 Caprices / Alexandr Kislitsyn, vln; Marinescu, cel / HAWKES: Bright Hair, Falling. BILOTTA: Beauty From Forgetfulness. D. JONES: Crooked Lake. K. PRICE: Heliotrope. M. COHEN: Monday Morning / Trio Casals (unless otherwise noted) / Navona NV6341

Here the Trio Casals (and their component members) play the music of 10 little-known modern composers. It opens in somewhat dramatic fashion with Matthew Hetz’ Sarajevo Cellist, a neat little bitonal piece about eight minutes long. Hetz uses a running, single-note line in the piano to start with as the cellist alternates between lyrical melodic lines and a few edgy passages. Later on, the piano plays downward cascades of notes in the right hand as the cellist moves into his lower register. This is, however, only the first movement of the piece; the remainder is not yet recorded.

Pierre Schroeder’s Glimmer is a piece in the same vein but a slightly different style, based on an original poem by the composer. I found this piece to be a bit rambling, however, not as well structured as the first.

Timothy Kramer describes his piece Vanishing Perspectives for amplified cello as being “commissioned by cellist Craig Hultgren in 2003 and premiered in 2005. After considering many of the new innovations and new works written for solo cello, I realized that I wanted to write a piece that would readdress the cello’s more traditional role as a robust and singing baritone instrument. I thought that perspective was vanishing in much of the new music I was seeing, especially for an instrument that is tuned in fifths, often plays bass lines, and has such a strong tradition of playing tonal music.” It’s a very interesting piece, however, simply one that uses the cello more as a percussive than a lyrical instrument. (I can just hear my cat Cleo, who hates modern music, complaining, “Pablo Casals would never have played this crazy stuff!”)

By contrast, John Hawkes’ Bright Hair, Falling is a rather lyrical piano trio with incidental edgy moments. Despite its title, the composer’s notes indicate that much of the music refers to water cascading, and you can hear this clearly in the way he writes the piece. It often resembles splashing water in its musical references.

David T. Bridges’ 3 Caprices are just that, short little works titled “Playful,” “Fickle” and “Jazzy,” using the violin and cello in intriguing ways while John B. Bilotta’s Beauty From Forgetfulness is a deceptive piece, sounding simple but actually qute complex with some tricky little passages in it. This is followed by Christian Paterniti’s lovely Notturno, which contains some interesting and dramatic twists and turns.

Diane Jones’ Crooked Lake is one of the quirkiest yet most original pieces on this set, opening with cello portamenti which sometimes go out of tonality. Light violin pizzicato is added before then using silence and space between notes to make its effect. A lovely piece that doesn’t sound sappy or cloying. Katherine Price’s Heliotrope is built around a 6/8 rhythm played by the piano while the two strings play more sustained, lyrical figures above it.

We end our excursion with Michael Cohen’s Monday Morning, a piece that I found surprisingly cheerful to describe one of the most awful days of the work week. The composer states that he wanted to capture the “excitement and almost frantic quality of the new week and the commuter off to work.” Personally, I can’t recall a single job I ever had in my life where I really enjoyed going off to work except one, and that was, alas, a part-time job that didn’t start on a Monday.

I was really surprised (and delighted) by the quality of nearly all of the music on this set, the high level of playing and the trio’s excellent sense of programming. Seldom, in recent years, have I heard a CD of new music as consistently interesting, and not insulting to my intelligence, as this one.

—© 2021 Lynn René Bayley

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