I can only glean a few data from the record cover, but this production is from the Taipei Symphony Orchestra, and it features David Finckel, the cellist of the Emerson String Quartet and founder of Music at Menlo in California. The rubric for the recording is “Cello Classics New and Old.” The Dvorak and the three pieces by Augusta Read Thomas were inscribed October 2003 at ChungShan Hall, Taiwan. A pupil of Mstislav Rostropovich, Finckel imitates several aspects of that master’s approach to the Dvorak, without overly stretching the phrases into molasses. The orchestral accompaniment is quite lush, and the resonance of the hall contributes to the acoustical ambiance of the collaboration. Sonically, the interplay between cello and flute, cello and oboe in the Adagio ma non troppo is rife with color, the tempos and phrasing reminiscent of Rostropovich’s classic work with Vaclav Talich. Finckel’s generous tone sings out in the Allegro moderato finale; and if this combination of Dvorak and Thomas works for you, then you won’t miss the couplings with the Dvorak by cellist competitors.
The three Ritual Incantations (1999) proceed with an emotional tenor in mind: Majestic; Mysterious and expansive; Spirited, passionate and lyrical. The cellist sets a cantabile pattern that might owe something to Bloch, with all kinds of colors we have heard from Berio and Hovhaness. A small concertino of instruments–flute, oboe, violin–adds to the musical discourse, interrupted by the large declamations from the ripieno orchestra. The riffs are really melodic fragments and blocks of color, what the composer’s vanity calls “sensuous and engaging sonic profiles.” Little melodic tissue develops into anything like a whistleable tune. We segue directly into the Mysterious and expansive; longing and yearning section. Again, fragments of melodic tissue make us “yearn” for something whole. The style is really antiphonal, with lyrical effects simply responding to each other. The last section is meant to be bold and lyrical. I might assign these tones to someone like Martinu or to the bright, bird feathers from Messiaen. It’s all harmless enough, tonally – the whole lasting about 14 minutes. I can see this music accompanying a nature documentary without hurting anyone’s feelings.
— Gary Lemco