Songs and Dances
Songs and Dances
Andrew Violette - Brooklyn-based ex-monk, cyclist, organist, and composer-chameleon - has reinvented himself again; this time as the spirit of every composer who has ever written a suite for solo cello (think JS Bach, Britten, Shostakovich, et al) - as if they had all had a stiff drink, let down their hair (or wig), and jumped in the hot tub together. Hotshot New York cellist, Ben Capps, just out of Juilliard, shows up and embarks on an exuberant solo cello romp. The guy's got a powerful technique; he makes the hard stuff sound easy. And he plays it all with a keen sense of enjoyment.
It's all songs and dances and nothing but. A string of toe-tapping forms throughout time and space, all filtered through the venerable-but-playful cello. Fanfare is a big yawp of long sounds and dotted rhythms. Contradance is New England style square dancing with joyful, catchy tunes. Elegy's a sweetly expressive yearning of young love. The Lullaby's as tender and intimate as any with its long beautifully spun out lines. The Tarantella's a sparkling tongue and cheek. The Hymn: a modern Gilbert and Sullivan. "After I wrote the Sonata for Solo Violin I wanted to write something sassy and fun but show-off too, a bunch of etudes that aim to entertain," says the composer Andrew Violette. "It's me at my most accessible. You could almost put the CD in the Pop section."
Some of the songs, though, are as challenging as any Elliott Carter. The Gymnopedie and the Sarabande feature almost impossible double and triple stops. But it's all played with a grace and naturalness by Mr. Capps as if it's a mere bagatelle.
There's a wacky minimalist Minuet, gliding Waves, a hopping Haitian Dance and a modern look at Tchaikovsky's Venetian Boat Song. There's Swing, a take-off on 50s pop, with a Chuck Berry riff and one string slides that have to be heard to be believed. There's a Schumann-esque Rhapsody, with big, juicy tunes; a country music inspired Wagoner's Lad; an over the top Liszt-ian Hungarian Dance and a heartbreaking Robert Johnson inspired Blues. The collection ends with a bizarre Addams Family Fast Latin. Enjoy! Enjoy! Ben plays like he's really having fun. You will too.
Violette was described in 2002 by the New York Times as a “romantic with Minimalist leanings,” which if nothing else shows up in the poverty of both terms. Either that, or he has simply moved on, way beyond … the irrepressible Ben Capps’ dazzling technique and a fearsomely meaty tone--though the carnivoresque never dominates the carnivalesque--makes this recording a swinging experience.
- Jonathan Gill, Holland Times