Raphael Wallfisch (cello)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Grant Llewellyn (conductor)
Obviously there is something frantic going on here. The beginning of the piece, with its notes bouncing around like a bucket of ping pong balls accidentally dropped to the floor, at first almost reminded me of Danny Elfman’s most schizophrenic movie scores. You know, the kind of music that is suppose to be kind of creepy but not in a serious way. The bluesy bent notes of a clarinet or saxophone and the clunk of a marimba just solidify that idea in my head. Do I really need I talk about the very first sound the cello makes in this section! What’s going to happen! We don’t know but just enjoy the ride while lasts kids!
I must give praise to Mr. Williams for the wonderful textures he creates behind the cello. What is more amazing is that the cello has a true singular distinct voice in the thick jungle of notes behind it. This is not easy to do and I hope it is not a recording trick. Although not a new technique by any means, plucking the strings creates such a stark contrast between it and the orchestra. I think it is the silence between those plucked notes that really add dimension or depth plus it opens your ears to the huge backdrop this piece has created. The cello player’s control, self discipline and expression were easy and clear to recognize and enjoy. Bravo.
As the piece carried on, I thought to myself where is the next surprise going to be? This piece seems like it builds as a kind of really good joke where you can’t wait to hear the punchline and then ask for more. Then all the sudden I hear this bluesy stripper style funky mess coming out of the orchestra. I almost laughed when I heard the cello tried to get a little freak nasty to boot. But like all temporarily insane things, sanity comes back eventually even if that sanity is a little abnormal to begin with.
For its total use of instrumentation (including a heavy dose of mallet percussion which is a favorite it mine) creativity and fun I would give this piece a definite endorsement. Without it taking itself too seriously the dialog between cello and orchestra did not disappoint nor become too redundant melodically. One small criticism is the composer’s insistence on the quick crescendo which may have been used a little heavy handedly.
Adrian William’s Cello Concerto [extract]
Reviewed by Douglas J. Dennis