Cellophony are a talented octet of young British cellists who for their second CD have put together a well-balanced programme of transcriptions as well as including one attractive contemporary work. Most are palpable hits, a couple of them near misses.
‘Vibrez’ may be the name of the CD but it opens with the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, where the straight, vibrato-less tone of the cellos is the defining characteristic of a searing performance, the forthcoming drama pitched on a precipice before it takes off on that pizzicato chord at bar 17. Barber’s Adagio is a natural for inclusion and Cellophony’s performance draws the listener inwards as if in a conversation. The group are adept at getting round the tricky figuration of the Wieniawski showpiece, and in the contrasting Venetian scene of La lugubre gondola they catch the desolate tone of Liszt’s late composition that anticipated Wagner’s death in the city. The Bach Prelude in F flows unobtrusively, the tempo easing off as a natural response for the return of the opening subject. In Mendelssohn’s lovely Ave Maria, they could have made more of the drama in the supplicant calls of the middle section. Cellophony add a charming countermelody to the return of the main refrain in ‘Ständchen’ but the transcriptions of Schubert’s other Lieder fare less well: the busy demi-semiquaver accompaniment muddies the rippling waters in ‘Liebesbotschaft’ and likewise the personal drama in ‘Aufenthalt’. Violincelles, vibrez! by Giovanni Sollima was composed in 1993. It is an appealing piece of minimalism, the thrice-repeated lyrical tune rising up to the highest register in an engaging manner.
The unanimity of the playing and the diverse nature of these performances make this Cellophony CD exceptional.