Amit Peled and Mount Version Virtuosi Cello Gang, Bach 6 with 4
Composing accompaniment for iconic solo works is both audacious and potentially liberating. Sahun Hong has done just that for Bach’s Cello Suite No. 6. The illuminating result, warmly performed by cellist Amit Peled and three members of his Mount Version Virtuosi Cello Gang on a new CTM Classics recording, is a lovely listen.
Of course Bach’s solo melodies imply harmonies, and these arrangements follow the “obvious” without taking harmonic liberties. Still, the new music sounds original as well as familiar. It sets the faithfully retained melodies against revealing counterpoint and imaginative, historically informed beds of harmony.
Often, as in the first Gavotte, the quality of the attacks and the subtly elastic time create the sound and feel of a consort of viols, vividly suggesting the historical setting of Bach’s music.
Indeed a sense of the flow of history pervades the recording, brought to life by Peled’s supremely fluid playing and the skill of his cohorts (all former students). They play fully in the spirit of Bach’s music even as they transport it – and the listener – somewhere new.
Bach 6 with 4 is available online.
Stanley Grill, …and I paint stars with wings…
This collection of string music by Stanley Grill came out a few years ago, but only just came to my attention. …and I paint stars with wings… features the string ensemble Camerata Philadelphia with music Grill composed either in response to world events or inspired by ancient ideas and imagery.
Don’t let the new-agey album title dissuade you. The music is compelling, evocative, and interesting. “Pavanne for a World Without War” carries a particular ache in this frightening time of conflict. The Four Elements, featuring the forceful viola soloist Brett Douglas Deubner, recalls various composers’ seasonally-inspired work (Vivaldi of course, Piazzolla, others) in Grill’s particular language – one that bespeaks the humility of the highly skilled composer.
The folk-like strains of the “Adagio; Moderato” movement of the politically-inspired In Praise of Reason seem to plead for societal sanity. The solo cello of Stephen Framil takes the role of the vox populi and two guest horn players provide smoke. Their brass bells festoon the “Allegro” with an evolving series of mini-fanfares as if trying to announce an age of reason that remains elusive, as the cello does a halting folk dance.
In the works for strings alone, the sound of those instruments seems baked into the motives, the harmonies, and the flow; one could imagine there were no other instruments in the world. Intricate and easeful, the compositions slide through time as if time held nothing but beauty embodied in sound, their melodies set against great moving cushions of harmony and subtle counterpoint.
In the Mystical Songs, Grill set to music four poems by the Spanish Catholic mystic Fernando Rielo, all on the subject of nature, and birds in particular. Deubner and soprano Peggy Pei-Ju Yu carry the melodies in these short, introspective songs and intermezzos. They lack the depth and creative energy of the longer pieces, but they leave the listener with a pleasant feeling of spaciousness as the album ends. The last song, Un arbol tan callado has a loping tune that stayed in my head all through dinner.
…and I paint stars with wings… from Innova Recordings is available online.