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Review: Mathias Wexler: Five New Works for Cello

April 7, 2009

Review of Five New Works for Cello by Mathias Wexler released by Albany Records

Mathias Wexler attacks the new music contained on this new album of Cello music.  The works, mostly for solo cello, are performed with an attention for detail and vitality that is necessary for music performed by a single person to have.  Wexler’s technique is impeccable and the highlight of the album.

The opening work, Paul Steinberg’s The Upper West Side is a series of brief and colorful vignettes of different sites found in that part of New York City.  Three Epiphaniesby Paul Siskind follows, beginning with a dark and deep elegy that leads into an active Fantasy and Invention that are nearly as dark and suspenseful.  Wexler’s own Night Breeze is the third work on the album, and is a short and lighthearted contribution that explores a jazz vernacular in a heavy cello texture.  Metallicellissimo by Gregory Wanamaker is an angular and dissonant work that must have requires some serious finger aerobics for the performer.  The final work -David Heinick’s Sonata for Cello and Piano is also the longest work ion the album.  It, not surprisingly, is also able to explore the most of the cello’s potential.  Even so, the work is mostly a dramatic and busy work, which is most shocking for its diversity in compositional technique from movement to movement.

As a standalone album, the pieces suffer by association.  Each piece, by the nature of being works for Cello alone and approaching it with a certain care to avoid losing momentum, tends to run together.  The cello is an instrument that can scream and run, which is done masterfully by Mr. Wexler, but it can also sing.  Unfortunately the moments where the Cello is allowed to sing on the album are brief, few, and far between.  Luckily, in our singles world, all of the music on this album would be a welcome relief between the calm and bland that is too often found on classical play lists.

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