Metcalf 'Cello Symphony'

These are all World Premiere recordings made under the supervision of the composer. Plain Chants and the Cello Symphony are performed by the artists for whom they were written. Also featured is Catrin Finch who has rapidly come to dominate the ranks of younger harp players. The Cello Symphony was recorded live at its premiere in Cardiff during the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, 2004. This impressive work is in effect a cello concerto - and at 35 minutes a very substantial piece. John Metcalf’s style here is meditative: there is an obvious parallel with John Taverner’s The Protecting Veil which uses the solo instrument to similarly ecstatic effect.



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Review "John Metcalf was born in Swansea in 1946, and studied at University College, Cardiff under Alun Hoddinott. The three works presented here provide evidence of a fresh and engaging voice in British music. The first piece, Mapping Wales", is written for string orchestra and harp (played here by Catrin Finch), and is based on an earlier piano solo, Endless Song. It is essentially a set of variations in reverse, with the theme only emerging in full at the end. Plain Chants is a work for unaccompanied chorus, sung on this recording by the Cardiff Ardwyn Singers, for whom it was written. The plainsong influence is there in the introduction, and this is developed over the three short movements set to fragments of well-known Christian texts (Benedictus, Ave Maria, and Hosanna in Excelsis). The most substantial work on the programme, lasting 35 minutes, is the ambitious Cello Symphony, played here by Raphael Wallfisch with the English Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Boughton. The title of the work is aptly chosen, for this is not a cello concerto in the traditional sense where the solo instrument is in dialogue or debate with the orchestra; rather, it embarks upon an epic journey with the orchestra as an equal partner - a sense which is heightened by the fact that the three sections are played without a break. The music emerges as from the depths, and the singing quality of the cello is exploited to the full. The tempo is predominantly slow, and the solo instrument weves effortlessly in and out of the orchestral texture. At times it becomes more animated, but the overall impression is one of quiet resolution, as if the cello is steadily feeling its way towards some distant but inevitable goal. At length the music gathers pace, and a wordless male chorus, present from the outset, becomes more audible. Finally, cello and orchestra fade away like a benediction. Metcalf is obviously a composer of some distinction, and this Nimbus disc showcases his work to good effect."- S. H. Smith
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