Bolcom, Rorem, Rochberg: Ricordanza; Harbison, Copland

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bolcom,Copland,Rochberg: Ricordanza; Harbison,Rorem
LABELS: Crystal
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: An American Cellobration
WORKS: Cello Sonata; After Reading Shakespeare; Ricordanza; Suite; Waltz and Celebration from Billy the Kid
PERFORMER: Richard Slavich (cello) Alice Rybak (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 639
The content of these discs could not be more different: one all-Russian, the other all-American (even down to its jaunty title); one 19th-century character pieces, the other music from the Seventies and Eighties. But both will be useful to cellists looking to expand their repertoire; Crystal helpfully gives publishers for the American works.

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Russian-born Gorokhov powers his way through 24 short tracks, mostly two to three minutes long. His formidable technique accomplishes the more flamboyant virtuoso excesses of the Russian cello school with ease – impressively fast sautillé bowing in Arensky’s Humoresque and Capriccioso Dance, and high tessitura work in Davidov’s glittering By the Fountain. However, he gives the impression of being in a hurry, unwilling to take time over phrases.

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Slavich’s technique is not as consistently rock-solid as Gorokhov’s, and his approach is occasionally tentative, but his interpretations certainly make more satisfying listening. On the whole these are conservative works. Some are disappointingly derivative: almost all the ideas in the Rorem can be found in Britten’s First Suite. But Harbison’s Suite is masterly in its concentration of expression: wholly original while keeping the character of Bach’s dances. The Adagio of Bolcom’s Sonata is a gem, at once simple and profound. Janet Banks