Cellophony | Vibrez
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Richard Birchall, Matthijs Broersma, Pau Codina, ReinoudFord, Ashok Klouda, Bartholomew LaFollete, John Myerscough and Ella Rundle
1. Richard Wagner Tristan und Isolde, Prelude to Act I 8.59
2-4. Franz Schubert Three songs from Schwanengesang D957
5. Franz Liszt La Lugubre Gondola, S.200 No.2 9.38
6. Henryk Wieniawski Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op.16 4.40
7. Felix Mendelssohn Ave Maria, Op.23 No.2 5.59
8. J.S. Bach Prelude No.11 in F major from the Well-Tempered Clavier (Book 2) 3.12
9. Samuel Barber Adagio, Op.11 7.22
10. Giovanni Sollima Violoncelles, Vibrez! 10.21
Released on Edition Classics, the new classical arm of celebrated British label Edition Records, Cellophony’s debut album Vibrez presents elegant re-workings of some key works from the romantic classical repertoire. The members of Cellophony are all masters of the cello, fusing eight cellos into one powerful sound, the ensemble at the same time preserves the intimacy of a solo instrument. From the opening of Richard Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde Prelude, through selections from Schuberts’s Schwanengeang to Samuel Barber’s timeless Adagio, Richard Birchall’s arrangements are both respectful and yet innovative and provide an integral part of the ensemble’s achingly rich and emotive sound.
The album’s finale is Viloloncelles, Vibrez!, from Italian composer Giovanni Sollima. Described by The Guardian as featuring ‘breathtaking sonorities ambiguities and audacities’ and by The Times as a ‘real crowd tickler’, this delightful and dramatic piece perfectly shows off the ensemble’s virtuosity in shaping and exploiting their unique sound.
Performing together over 6 years, Richard Birchall, Matthijs Broersma, Pau Codina, ReinoudFord, Ashok Klouda, Bartholomew LaFollete, John Myerscough and Ella Rundle pull together their varied international backgrounds and experiences to create the unique sonorities of Cellophony, a sound world that is inspiring a diverse range of composers to extend the repertoire for cello octets. Their frequent performances are making an impact on the classical concert scene and today they have a growing fan base.
‘An impressive debut’. BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE
‘The unanimity of the playing and the diverse nature of these performances make this Cellophony CD exceptional’ GRAMOPHONE
‘…luxuriant performances’. STRAD
‘Cellophony is a remarkable group… I urge you to hear them’. INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW
‘In terms of lustrous tone, accuracy of intonation and immaculate blend their playing is impossible to fault’. CLASSICAL EAR
‘An exceptional disc in many ways’. WORDS AND MUSIC
‘A bold and brilliant bunch’. THE TIMES
‘An ensemble which digs deep into our souls’. BBC RADIO 3
‘…something comes along and blows you away. The eight-cello group Cellophony which launched the series was one. They looked terrific lined up there on stage, and what a fabulous rich and fruity noise they made. But I don’t think I was the only one left wanting to hear more cellophonous sounds. Let’s hope they return soon’.DAILY TELEGRAPH
Vibrez! What a perfect title for this first release on Edition Classics. It seems to sum up the ‘good vibrations’ that Edition has built its reputation on as one of the groundbreaking labels of the 21st century, working with some of the finest jazz and improvising musicians around. But it also means ‘to thrill’, and wrapped up in that word is danger and darkness, exquisite sweetness and joy, energy and adventure.
We’ve got to know Edition Records for its belief in musicians who have an uncompromising approach to making brilliant music. The label has made its mark in music sales and in the concert hall and it seems logical now not to stop at those borderlands where jazz meets classical. Dig deep into the musical lives of some of the Edition musicians and you’ll find a classical background and sensibility. Indeed label co-founder, composer, pianist and producer Dave Stapleton is himself classically trained.
That word, ‘thrill’, says something about the human spirit, which the cello gives voice to like no other instrument, and so Edition Classics launches with Cellophony, an ensemble which digs deep into our souls, which confronts us with ourselves, which teases and pleases.
We have been lured by cellists over the years, the charismatic figures of Casals and Rostropovich, or du Pré, and, in more recent years, other passionate ambassadors of their instruments such as Steven Isserlis, Julian Lloyd Webber, Yo Yo Ma, and the American maverick Arthur Russell. It’s more than just the rich, warm sound they produce, it’s the whole physicality of the cello which must be embraced and caressed before it releases its sweet music.
They are all lone figures though, and here we have eight players. Are they in competition? Are they a team? How do they retain the intimacy of the solo cellist yet give us a new power and energy in ensemble? The answer lies in arrangements which go right to the heart of the music, which drill down to the very core and release new qualities to us. The opening of the programme with Wagner’s heart-wrenching motif from Tristan and Isolde, Schubert’s songs, now without words, but with their heartbreak underlined by the cellos, and Liszt’s Lugubrious Gondola yielding its heart of darkness. Mendelssohn’s Ave Maria setting is another song, a prayer, without words. Wieniawski was a famous 19th century violinist whose Scherzo-Tarantelle was a glittering showcase for his own technical wizardry. Multiply that by eight and take a deep breath during this relentless cello action! Bach – there had to be Bach – is a delicious exercise in warmth and elegance, a fitting prelude to the well-known Adagio by Samuel Barber.
The final word on the CD is left to Italian composer Giovanni Sollima and his dramatic and painfully beautiful Violincelles, Vibrez! It seems to sum up what Cellophony, Edition Classics and all this music brings to our lives, it is, simply, a license to thrill.
Fiona Talkington – January 2014
Fiona Talkington is a presenter at the Wigmore Hall and on BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction as well as a festival curator.