MYSTERY VARIATIONS ON GIUSEPPE COLOMBI’S CHIACONA
Anssi Karttunen (vc)
TOCCATA 0171 (79:57)
Partite Sopra un Basso.
Sarabande per un Coyote.
Something to Go On.
Still and Flow.
There and Back Again.
50 Notes in 3 Variations
Chiacona After Colombi.
Locus on Colombi’s Chiacona.
Preludio and Ciaccona.
Variation Sombre et Libre d’après Chiacona.
A Fancy for Anssi.
contains 30 different short works based on Giuseppe Colombi’s
Colombi who lived from 1635 to 1694 replaced Giovanni Bononcini as maestro di cappella of the Modena Cathedral in Italy in 1678. The
is only one of an enormous number of pieces he wrote for various instruments, chamber groups, and orchestras. It is, however, said to be the oldest piece written for the cello. The music is part of a collection from the court of Francesco II of Este at the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. The idea for the
came from composer Kaija Saariaho and Muriel von Braun, the wife of cellist Anssi Karttunen, as a means of celebrating the cellist’s 50th birthday. They asked each of 30 composers to write a variation on the
. None of the composers knew who else had been asked and Karttunen promised to premiere music that he had not yet heard. Most of the variations range from just under two to just over three minutes long, so all of them fit on one disc. Few of these variations are truly melodic, most depend on texture, drama, percussion, and tonal color to excite the senses of the listener. Only one of the composers, Colin Matthews, uses electronics. Mark Neikrug and Magnus Lindberg use the letters of the cellist’s name as part of their variations. Some composers, such as Tan Dun, who was born in China and Pablo Ortiz from Argentina, make use of their native cultures while others, like Argentinian Martin Matalon and Texan Edmund Campion turn elsewhere. Matalon creates novel textures and far off sounds with a mute while Campion includes some aspects of
in his variation. Roger Reynolds’s
, evokes an element of foreboding, while Jukka Tiensuu’s
and Paavo Heininen’s
have plaintive, pleading qualities.
Composers like Steven Stucky, Kimmo Hakola, Joji Yuasa, Ivan Fedele, and Magnus Lindberg are fully aware of Karttunen’s virtuosity and have written works that show off some of his skills. Esa-Pekka Salonen’s
Sarabande for a Coyote
starts with the cello sounding a bit like a harp, before introducing some charming harmonies that expand the usual cello range. Rolf Wallin’s
has sliding arpeggios that resolve into an impressive dance. Lerdahl’s
There and Back Again
uses the dance to guide us from Colombi’s time forward to our own and back again. Anders Hillborg’s
Still and Flow
treats us to his seriously studied version of Bach. The in-your-face style of Veli-Mali Puumala’s…
is rather unique and it added a bit of spice to the mixture on this disc. Kartunnen follows it with Dusapin’s
50 Notes in 3 Variations,
an inventive and intuitive work that resolves into a tone color-filled meditation. Also in the meditative mood, Ryan Wigglesworth’s
offers more respite from the dramatic. Kaija Saariaho’s
portrays a pastoral scene with her full-blooded sound vocabulary. In
Vinko Globokar asks the cellist to sing and I found it a distraction. Gualtiero Dazzi’s
Variation Sombre et Libre d’après Chiacona
brings us a sweet and smooth melody played in the cello’s lowest notes.
means germinating and Tapio Tuomela brings us a fantasy that includes tonal color and percussion. Betsy Jolas’s
A Fancy for Anssi
creates rivers of sound that broaden out to reflect fragments of Colombi’s theme. Miroslav Srnka, on the other hand, uses slides and double-stops to make us hunt for the theme while Luca Francesconi makes use of it openly but varies it in unexpected ways. The finale is Magnus Lindberg’s
, a dialogue between the
and music based on the cellist’s full name. It ends with a pleasing melody that leaves the listener feeling that the music was worthwhile hearing. The sound on this disc is excellent and I think many of our readers will find it interesting.