MUHLY Cello Concerto BLOCH Schelomo
Zuill Bailey opens this triptych with a superb account of Bloch’s masterly Schelomo, concentrated and powerful, the soloist rhapsodising in a freely expressive style. Jun Märkl draws from the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra a partnership of great sensitivity and colour, and this makes a perfect prelude to Nico Muhly’s Cello Concerto which follows.
This original and inspired work receives its world premiere recording here. The cello begins a long, intense soliloquy against bold string pizzicatos, which are taken over first by the orchestra, then the percussion, strongly directed. This leads to a brief moto perpetuo from the cellist. The orchestral playing softens in feeling and dissolves downwards without a break into the delicately scored, tense second movement. It becomes one long lyrical drone and ends with ‘a shimmer of bells and rude brass’. The mood lightens engagingly in the finale as Märkl combines bold rhythms in the orchestral bass, with chirping minimalist woodwind, creating two lines of counterpoint. The concerto closes enigmatically, with the drums and growling brass returning and another sustained drone again superbly controlled by Märkl, yet led by the cello.
Bloch’s Three Jewish Poems of 1911 and 1916 return to the opulence of the orchestral writing of his early period. The first, ‘Danse’, balances rhythm and colour. The second, ‘Rite’, in the composer’s words, ‘is more emotional’ but ‘there is something solemn and distant’. The third, ‘Cortège funèbre’, ‘is more human’ and dedicated to his father’s memory. Both soloist and conductor show their control with great intensity of feeling throughout, superbly recorded.