Texte paru dans: / Appeared in:
Fanfare Magazine: 43:3 (01-02/2020) 
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Reviewer: David Reznick

One of the things that makes America great (and it’s great right now—no need to make it “great again”) is the freedom to chart our own destiny. You may have a dream of producing the most delicious flavor of ice cream the world has ever known. You can devote your life to this if you want. No one will stop you. Of course, there’s no guarantee of success. If, for example, after an exhaustive study, you arrive at the unshakable conclusion that the most delicious flavor is Chicken Mint, you may run into some marketing problems. Or suppose that when you were five years old you heard someone play a cello, and right then and there you decided to devote yourself to that instrument. And the more you stick to it, the better you get. Then suddenly you are a cello virtuoso, touring the world and playing concertos, raking in the money. But fate cannot be toyed with. Suppose the instrument you heard as a child is the viola da gamba. And eventually you become a viola da gamba virtuoso, touring public libraries, country club celebrations, art galleries, and elementary school music classes. And keeping your day job.

The Cellini Consort is comprised of three lucky gentlemen. They are lovers of the viola da gamba, an instrument which (some think) is to the cello as a tricycle is to the winning vehicle in the Tour de France. And somehow they found each other. Now they live in V.D.G. Wonderland. They can hardly walk around without tripping over one. And they perform as a trio, without the recorders, flageolets, bladders, crumhorns, and sackbuts by which they are often surrounded.

Surprisingly, they found that the amount of music written for three solo violas de gamba is a bit sparse. They solved this by arranging music that was not originally intended for their instrument. The present recording features various pieces by Bach that have undergone the transformation.

Well, we all love Bach. And the three instrumentalists are indeed virtuosos. The variable here that might make it difficult for this release to rise to #1 on the charts is how much the record buying public enjoys the viola da gamba sound. The elements of music are (or used to be) melody, harmony, rhythm, and tone color. They have to be present, but not necessarily equal. Ravel’s Bolero, one of the most successful pieces ever written, retains the same melody, harmony, and rhythm throughout, repeated over and over. But each repetition is played by different instruments. Clearly, the tone color is most important here. On this disc, the tone color never changes. So how long can you listen to this combination? Without dancing to it, singing it, or laughing at the jokes? It varies.

This article originally appeared in Issue 43:3 (Jan/Feb 2020) of Fanfare Magazine.

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