A Sicilian Traveller
Bartók: Romanian Folk Songs; Komitas: Armenian Folk Songs and Dances; Tsintsadze: Miniatures; plus works by Coleridge-Taylor, Pianelli and Skalkottas
Avos Chamber Orchestra/Alessio Pianelli (cello)
Rubicon RCD 1051 56:21 mins
Anyone who has been lucky enough to enjoy a holiday in Sicily will have noted the extraordinarily diverse range of nationalities that have influenced the island’s history and landscape over the centuries. It’s this eclectic mixture of cultures that is celebrated in the present release, which brings together an attractive sequence of folk-inflected works by Georgian, Armenian, Greek, Hungarian and British-born composers in imaginative arrangements for solo cello and string orchestra by Alessio Pianelli.
Undoubtedly the most familiar music is that of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances, which is given a strongly characterised performance full of vigour and energy in the outer movements but also reflecting mystery and melancholy in the third and fourth dances. Similar contrasts of mood and character percolate the two enormously attractive sets of dances by Tsintsadze and Komitas, the latter’s ‘Krunk’ being a particularly haunting movement. But for me the most striking music of all comes in the selection of Greek Dances by Skalkottas which surely deserve to be much better known.
The inclusion of movements from Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Negro Melodies, originally written for solo piano, is perhaps more unexpected. Yet these intimate pieces give further opportunities for Pianelli to project his warmly lyrical cello sound. There are further allusions to English music in Pianelli’s diverting Variations on a Sicilian Theme which includes a teasing quotation from Elgar’s Cello Concerto, as well as unmistakeable echoes from one of the best-known arias from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. As with the rest of this disc, Pianelli and the Avos Chamber Orchestra deliver a strongly committed performance captured in vivid sound.