About this Recording
8.557816 - CELLO, CELLI! – The Music of Bach and Brubeck arranged for Cello Ensemble
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Cello, Celli: Twenty Cellos Play Bach and Brubeck
Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 6 • Elegy • Regret

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Within a twelve month period during 1721-22, two great masters, one Italian and the other German, composed music that stands at the pinnacle of orchestral music of the eighteenth century. During that period Antonio Vivaldi composed his Opus 8, Le quattro stagioni (The Four Seasons) and Johann Sebastian Bach created his remarkable six concerti grossi known as the Brandenburg Concertos, his earliest essays in absolute instrumental music on the grand scale.
In his dedicatory letter to Christian Ludwig, dated Cöthen, 24th March 1721, Bach described these works as Concerts accommodés à plusieurs Instruments and, in fact, each employs a different combination of instruments. Concerto No. 3 is scored in nine solo parts, three violins, three violas, and three cellos with continuo. The work is unusual in that it lacks a slow movement, save for two chords marked Adagio that separate the two Allegros. Concerto No. 6, like No. 3, exhibits an unusual sonority, the violins being absent. It is scored for two violas, two viole da gamba, and violoncello, with a continuo.

Dave Brubeck (b. 6th December 1920)
Born in Concord, California, jazz legend Dave Brubeck is equally distinguished as composer and pianist. Studies at the College of the Pacific and with Darius Milhaud at Mills College led to the founding, with fellow students, of the experimental Jazz Workshop Ensemble, which recorded in 1949 as the Dave Brubeck Octet. Later, in 1958, the combination of Brubeck with drummer Joe Morello, double bassist Eugene Wright, and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond quickly achieved an overwhelming popular success as the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The Quartet’s experimentation with time signatures unusual to jazz produced works such as Blue Rondo a la Turk and Take Five, introducing millions of enthusiastic young listeners to unexplored regions of jazz. The group recorded and performed together continuously through 1967.
As a composer Brubeck has written and, in some cases, recorded several large-scale works including two ballets, a musical, an oratorio, four cantatas, a Mass, works for jazz combo and orchestra, and many solo piano pieces. In the last twenty years, he has organized several new quartets and continued to appear at the Newport, Monterey, Concord, and Kool Jazz Festivals. Brubeck performed at the White House in 1964 and 1981 and at the 1988 Moscow summit honouring the Gorbachevs. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from NARAS, and honourary degrees from universities in the United States, Canada, Germany, England and Switzerland. He was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Clinton, named a Jazz Master by the National endowment for the Arts, and designated a ‘Living Legend’ by the Library of Congress.

The following notes are provided by Dave Brubeck:
Elegy was composed as a dedication to the late Norwegian artist, journalist and critic, Randi Hultin, and was originally titled Blues for Randi. She was an unusual woman, who welcomed into her home travelling musicians, and counted among her friends everyone from ragtime piano player Eubie Blake, bebop pianist Bud Powell, to those in the more modern school. When I telephoned her to let her know that we soon would be coming to Oslo and would play her piece for her, she declared “I’ll be there, if they have to carry me”. Sadly, she died of cancer before we arrived, so she never heard it, although she had seen the notes on paper. In memory of Randi the Dave Brubeck Quartet performed Elegy for the first time in Oslo before an audience of jazz enthusiasts who knew and loved her, and her two daughters, who had flown in from Morocco and England. The occasion was documented by Norwegian television. The piece has since become part of the Quartet’s repertoire. Again, Derek Snyder, in arranging for cello ensemble, has added some new material to my original composition with additional places for optional improvisation.
God’s Love Made Visible is adapted from the final choral section of a Christmas cantata, La Fiesta de la Posada, that I composed in 1975 and that was premiered the same year by the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra. This choral pageant is based on the Mexican and Latin American custom of las posadas. Traditionally, a procession is formed in the streets with people singing litanies and knocking at various doors seeking shelter, as did Joseph and Mary long ago. They are turned away with the cruel words, “There is no room”, until the procession eventually arrives at the appointed home. Doors are flung wide and they are greeted with the song, “Won’t you enter, holy pilgrims. Come into my humble home”. Neighbours, families and children all join in games, dances, songs of celebration and worship. In the closing bars of God’s Love Made Visible a children’s choir sings:

Each happy family
Shares in the mystery
Of the Nativity
On Christmas Day.

followed by the full chorus singing “God’s love made visible! Incomprehensible! He is invincible! His love shall reign! His love shall reign, for evermore!” In this cello ensemble version, adapted by Derek Snyder, from my original mariachi orchestration, I think you can easily match the words to the melody.
Cello, Celli was originally written for a Paris cello ensemble that stipulated that my son, Matthew, former student of Aldo Parisot at Yale, would be the improvising soloist. After dedicating many hours of intense work in order to meet their deadline, I was informed that the commission had to be dropped because the French arts budget had been drastically cut. When Ida Mercer, another former student of Parisot, asked me after a performance of my music at the Britt Festival in Oregon, if I had ever written anything for cello ensemble, I answered “Yes, Ida. I have just such a piece that’s never been performed”. I sent Cello, Celli to her for a subsequent performance with the Cleveland Cello Ensemble, sans improvisation.
The Desert and the Parched Land was originally written as a soprano solo in my Mass To Hope! composed in 1979 and premiered in 1980 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island. It replaced the usual Scriptural reading in the Mass ritual. When I recorded To Hope! at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., I improvised a short piano interlude followed by the soprano returning to sing the original theme. I have since discovered that many other musicians love to play this melody and follow it with an improvised solo. Derek Snyder, in arranging for cello ensemble, has added some new material to my original composition derived from an improvisation by Michael Moore, the bass player in my quartet.
Regret was composed for string orchestra in 2001. I explained in the notes for the London Symphony performance that Regret expressed “a sweet sadness, a longing for lost moments, might-have-beens, and a past that cannot be re-lived. Perhaps it is an emotion unique to someone who has lived as many decades as I.” However, that fragile emotion seems to be more universal than I imagined. The Russian National Orchestra string section has performed and recorded it. The Chattanooga Choral Society, under the direction of Philip Rice, has recorded it using only vowel sounds and the word “regret”. I have great respect for each of the conductor’s individual performance. What, I wondered, will happen with the Yale Cellos under Aldo Parisot’s guidance? The première performance of Regret for cello ensemble took place at Carnegie Recital Hall in 2003. As I took my seat and was handed the evening programme my heart almost stopped. Villa Lobos, Johann Sebastian Bach, Mozart! Panic struck when I thought of the high violin parts for string orchestra, now being played by celli. Aldo stood before the ensemble and began to conduct the familiar strains, and after a few measures I could feel the hair on my arms standing up. Such richness of tone I had never experienced. The depth of emotion expressed left me breathless. I braced myself for the difficult passages that were yet to arrive. Derek Snyder had stayed with my original score most of the way, and being a cellist, I told myself, he surely would find a way around a too difficult passage or an impossible note. Hearing my music so beautifully expressed was an unforgettable experience. The Yale Cellos were brilliant, a perfect ensemble, but how could they be otherwise having been taught by Aldo Parisot, the master Maestro?

Richard Rosenberg


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