Cello Effect = Works by PROKOFIEV, PUCCINI, RACHMANINOFF, etc.  – Rastrelli Cello Quartet – GENUIN

by | Jun 2, 2017 | Classical CD Reviews


A Cello Quartet performs a wide variety of short classics transcribed and arranged by one of its members.

One may wonder why anyone would want to listen to four cellos (celli?) playing together. This album gives a partial answer. Indeed when the founder of the Rastrelli Cello Quartet, Kim Kraftzoff asked the person who would eventually transcribe all the selections on this disc, and would join the quartet as a player, Sergio Drabkin responded “No one will be able to listen to four cellos for more than ten minutes!” The pair got around the issue by arranging pieces for this recording, none of which is longer than 5 minutes, 10 seconds.

The Rastrelli Cello Quartet was formed in 2002 by Kraftzoff  in St. Petersburg where he teaches, when he asked  two of  his students , and Drabkin,  to join him. He took the Quartet’s name from Bartholomeo Rastrelli, the eighteenth century Italian architect commissioned to build the massive buildings that formed the streetscape of the new Russian capital.

The first five tracks are an ambitious set of selections from Sergei Prokofiev’s (1891 – 19 53) ballet Romeo and Juliet. This is a good choice because Prokofiev’s wide tonal range shows off the cellos’ gravelly low notes.  The lyrical or song-like character of the cello comes through in Puccini’s aria from Tosca (“E lucevan le stelle”). And the Vocalise by Rachmaninoff (1873 – 1943) demonstrates the higher register of the instrument.

There is a shift in the program at this point from classical to modern. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s (1927 – 1994) Desafinado is followed by W. C. Handy’s (1873 – 1958) St. Louis Blues. Two pieces made famous by the Dave Brubeck Quartet are heard; Blue Rondo à la Turk here, and Paul Desmond’s (1924 – 1977)  Take Five later on. Eclecticism runs wild then with Leroy Anderson’s (1908 – 1975) Syncopated Clock, Jobim and Mendonça’s One Note Samba, Bobby Timmon’s Moanin’, and an anonymous piece called Bublichki. The disc concludes with the Valse Sentimentale in F minor by Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893).

This recording is on the GENUIN label, distributed by Naxos in North America. Headquarters and recording studios are in Leipzig, Germany, where this music was recorded from June 2 to 5, 2014. The disc was released in 2015. Sound quality is very high, and the performances are uniform and solid. Accompanying notes, in English and German, are readable and informative, but not stuffy. I was surprised to find several advertisements near the end of the booklet.  If one enjoys the sound of the cello, this is a pleasant way to spend an hour.

— Paul Kennedy

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