From the first notes of this wide-ranging compendium of works for guitar (Catherine Struys) and cello (Wouter Vercruysse—cross-references below), it is abundantly clear that the artists are more than artistic collaborators but also deux amis.
The recital lifts off with Nathan Kolosko’s Episodics (2021).
“I” features a dark and thoughtful opening from Vercruysse, deftly ushering in Struys before the pair easily hand off the lead lines. A marvellously lyrical, near-perfect unison brings the opener to an effective adieu.
The strumming cello sets the stage for “II”, followed by radiant guitar lines then Vercruysse’s “turns” becoming gradually more loving and intense. There’s much contrast to keep the ear readily engaged.
An Alberti-bass-like accompaniment from the guitar effectively sets the stage for Vercruysse’s deceptively, effortlessly soaring lines and declamations; smiles all around. In the brief middle section, deeper thoughts abound, but soon optimism returns along with a shared sense of joie de vivre, welcome triplets and a heartfelt close.
Nicolas Meunier’s Sérénade pour guitare et violoncelle (2020) is a fascinating study in textures, tone and registers. After a rhapsodic, pedal-anchored opening from Struys, Vercruysse takes stage and never loses the limelight. Gradually moving higher and higher (with some delectable changes of register and a few harmonic twists), listeners will want to hit the repeat button and savour every measure again.
From the ever-inventive mind of Giorgio Mirto comes Light Blue (2017), a trio of dialogues that has much to say about the human experience.
From the opening, pulsating undercurrents of the guitar, preparing the way for the cello’s engaging legato, every listener will hope to read the actual texts for themselves in “Letters on the Table.” The music is imbued with wonderful flow, a fine “change”—clearly ushering in a different subject—then a somewhat conversational calmo, searching for the right/write words… Vercruysse employs his patent ability of delicatissimo in both touch and tone. Then strength returns in the closing paragraphs, not surprisingly followed by an adieu that silently (in the end) has the last word.
“Intermezzo”: introspectively thoughtful, but always a shared sense of purpose, yielding to a surprise harmonic shift that moves forward to heartfelt statements–undeterred by mode—from the protagonists, understandably finishing with a reluctant farewell.
Somewhat in the vein of “Who Is Sylvia”, “Omar” begins with an otherworldly harp-like introduction by Struys, soon followed by Vercruysse’s amiable, positive reply. The duo grow together in power and a compelling sense of equality—so welcome in 2022—before quietly leaving the scene of expression and letting Omar’s backstory speak for itself to all who might listen.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Asgeir AarØen’s “Strings of Silence, will resonate with all lovers who have been through a lot over the years but are still “there”. The commitment and passion can be felt in every bar, in every register.
No doubt Sigmund Freud would be both enchanted and intrigued by Mathias Duplessy’s Sonate pour guitar et violoncelle en quatre rêves (2019). A quartet of dreams that will speak to anyone who listens.
And on a cold, snowy typical winter storm here in Niagara, there was more than enough warmth to heat the soul prior to the inevitable shovelling.
“Rêve Exalté”: A compelling mix of uncertainty, drive, contrasts and edgy rhythms as the guitar pulsates while the cello soars or anchors as required.
“Rêve Mélancolique”: A veritable “Song Without Words”; Struys does it all in the opening (simultaneously accompanies, leads) before Vercruysse “sneaks” in gently—a reflective movement on thought and deed.
“Rêve Heureux”: To my ears, more content than happy; at times impish, infused with dollops of welcome syncopation before a resounding resolution that can’t help but bring a smile.
“Rêve Fou”: Curiously, coincidentally just finished reading Dostoyevsky’s “A Gentle Creature” (where madness abounds), this finale oozes with nervous drama from the git-go, filled with insistent pedals from the guitar and copious amounts of frenzy from the cello. Following a rare unison, the sonata concludes with a definite feeling of “Fright of the Bumblebee”!
This memorable disc concludes with Armand Coeck’s “Canticum Maris” (2019).
A gentle opening is further enhanced by one of Vercruysse’s always discreet but telling portamenti.
It’s a farewell filled with loving reflections and reminiscences, proving yet again how much old friends can share without saying a word. JWR