JWR Articles: CD - Another Place (Featured performers: Catherine Struys, Wouter Vercruysse) - May 6, 2019
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Another Place

4.5 4.5
65 min.

The quality remains high

In the third CD in these pages from Wouter Vercruysse, this repertoire focuses on music for cello and guitar—mostly ably performed by Catherine Struys. Another Place, indeed.

The program begins with a suite of movements from Nathan Kolosko, Luminance. Completed in 2008, they sound as fresh as yesterday now.

“Empty, with stillness” is filled with ethereal sorrow, reaching for...

The cello emerges over the relative calm of the guitar before one final sigh, good or bad…n’importe quoi.

Excitement builds from the first measure of “With anticipation.” The incessant guitar pedal urges everything forward, and is snappily answered by the cello—both becoming bolder as time goes on. Yet nothing is truly resolved (so like real life).

A tremolo, definitely nervoso, from Vercruysse sets the stage for Struys’ heartfelt, at times melancholic, song. The roles are next reversed with the cello’s long, languid, wonderfully crafted legato line. Two lost souls seeking solace…this time the pedal tolls for we.

The most impish of the lot, “Sly, cunning” features a “catch me if you can” pizzicato-like guitar and soon a soaring cello not shy about sliding to the next destination with the greatest of ease. There’s a wonderful aura of Jamaican steel drums as the pitches rise.

The closing “Stoic, powerful” begins with a definite sense of forward movement unhampered by an occasional dissonance and Bach-like determination. The power comes from organic growth and the feeling of homage to the “Allegretto” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Mathias Duplessy’s “Presto” (2017) offers compelling rhythms and straight-ahead movement throughout. The ensemble between the two performers is first rate as they sympathetically share the unwritten, but vital, feel. It’s the ideal tonic to the much more brooding “Luminance.” The role reversal is very powerful before ushering in a bit of mystery midway, which demands the return to sunnier ways. After a buffet of pizzicati, there follows a highly inventive finish replete with a touch of wood.

“Spiel” (1992), from Erkki-Sven Tüür, lifts off with a mesmerizing opening anchored by yet another pedal. A sudden explosion plunges the music and the listener into near tribal effects fuelled by Stravinsky-like drive if not his metric complexities. Heavy metal takes on a new, aural meaning at times. After all of the early turmoil, silence is slipped in to allow the ear and mind an opportunity to assess what just transpired and awaits…? What follows is a series of introspective searches, which seem wanting to find a way back to the recent power and urgency. Nothing seems to work—it’s a journey without the proverbial roadmap. Half-step resolutions appear frequently, offering moments of shared experience and hope. There is some petulance ahead, perhaps angered at the relentless look for the “correct” path. Finally, it’s full circle: literally getting nowhere but savouring every moment with all of the twists and turns along the way.

The album’s musical sorbet comes from Michael Lysight’s “Meditation” (2009). Struys’ thoughtful, soulful ritornello cello readily supports Vercruysse’s easy-flowing song-without-words, proving yet again that it is the thought that counts—no matter whose interpretation.

Ester Mägi’s “Cantus” (1987) is a wide-ranging conversation entre amis and a vrai study of contrasts: texture, tone and emotion. A wee dance provides balance and relief before a most graceful return, heralding a gentle wind down of the melodic lines—at times infused with morsels of Bach—before the partners slip away into the night.

Suite No. 1 from Raffaele Bellafronte (1994) is a well-constructed set of four very different styles that keep the ear constantly engaged.

After a rollicking opening (“Preludio”), Vercruysse takes stage effortlessly—alternating between singing and scurrying amongst the varied statements. The middle section is wonderfully “calmo” featuring haunting, thoughtful declamations quietly supported by Struys. A quasi cadenza for the cello—free but always artfully controlled—ushers in the return to the earlier busyness but with still more to say, share and pluck, before catching a breath and bidding adieu.

“Histèrico” most certainly lives up to its name, fuelled by driving, repetitive rage and presented with near-flawless ensemble. A brief cello soliloquy leads to a few moments of contrast filled with reflective repose before twice intensifying on the return to angst and pain (this time heralded by a virtual scream from the cello’s stratosphere). A final race to the double bar, complete with wood percussion for still another effect, finishes things up well.

“Romance” is lovingly rendered by both and informed with an intriguing air of resigned inevitability. Struys’ accompaniments produce an exquisite variety of touches and tones; a couple of hints of “Feelings” seem just right and as welcome as the excursions into the major mode. After a heroic flourish from the guitar, the final section increases its passion before calming down into a heartfelt farewell.

After a deliciously coy introduction, the concluding “Tango” will have most listeners heading for the dance floor. The pair’s perfectly integrated interplay combines to make an invigorating whole, while the occasional bits of “blue” are welcome indeed. Hola!

Armand Coeck’s “Soledad” (2018) is a fitting final expression of just what the human spirit is, and—in the right circumstances—can create. The sweeping lines readily embrace, and all filled with tenderness and affection. So rather than goodbye, let’s say, “until next we meet.” JWR

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Featured performers - Catherine Struys, Wouter Vercruysse
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