Round Midnight
Ellington:  Caravan.  Bernstein:  America.  Gershwin:  Clap Yo' Hands. Prelude No. 2.  Mancini:  The Pink Panther Theme.  Miller:  Moonlight Serenade.  Cárdenas:  The Flower is a Key (A Rap for Mozart).  Brookmeyer:  Amerika 2002, In Memoriam.  Saegusa: Ragtime.  Corea:  Spain.  Monk/Williams:  'Round Midnight.  Spirituals:  Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen.  Deep River.
The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic; Till Br–nner, flugelhorn; Janne
Saksala, bass; Sir Simon Rattle, speaker
EMI CLASSICS 57319 (F) (DDD) TT:  59:11

Surely one of the oddest "crossover" CDs ever issued!  I cannot imagine it will appeal to jazz audiences and "classical" listeners will find little to admire except for the astounding virtuosity of the Berlin Phil cellists - which is in deed extraordinary.  Cellos have a naturally rich sound, but little of it is heard in the rather dry acoustics of this studio recording (Teldex Studio, Berlin, Jan. 2002). The program begins with Duke Ellington's familiar Caravan, a rather ugly arrangement of this delightful tune. The Flower is a Key ("a rap for Mozart") was written for the cellists by Mexican composer Sergio Cárdenas who, when asked to write a "rap" for them, instantly thought of "the beautiful poem Mozart by Dyma Ezban."  The composer said his piece "has all the characteristics of a rap, but it is a true homage to Mozart, without conditions."  He's got to be kidding.  If you're interested in rap (I'm not), you'll probably find Sir Simon Rattle's rapping appalling in its unevenness - and the loud punctuation shouts, presumably by the cellists, add little but noise. Apparently when Rattle was first asked to do this "rap," he was mildly interested but couldn't fit it into his schedule.  Months later, after a performance of Beethoven's Ninth, BPO cellists asked him again and he said since they had played the Beethoven so incredibly how could he refuse them?  So he did what he should not have done.  I find it all rather worthless - also quite unintelligible.

Robert Brookmeyer's two pieces America 2002, In Memoriam were "inspired' by the New York atrocities of September 11.  It's a rather weak tribute with improvisatory meandering solos for flugelhorn in the first part, trumpet in the second, both played by Till Br–nner, who also is featured in the final track, Round Midnight, which gives the CD its name.  This, too, has a casual flugelhorn solo that seems to go nowhere - which perhaps is the way it is intended to sound.

I found earlier recordings by the BPO cellists fascinating.  In the mid-'70s they had some terrific LPs on which they played music written especially for them, all worthy of reissue on CD.  Their first EMI CD, South American Getaway, was a charmer and very well recorded.  This second CD falls far short of that level.

R.E.B. (September 2002)