Angel Dances

As the brief booklet bio somewhat oddly exclaims, “They are a unique
ensemble worldwide.” On the cover, the word “angel” gets prominent placement in large font,
and in a blare of white light a woman with wings looks thoughtfully away from the super-sized
cello body behind her. What that has to do with musical contents, your reviewer can’t say.

Angels as subject are tangential at best to much of the repertoire on the disc, and dance hardly
comes to mind when listening to Debussy’s “Sunken cathedral” or J. S. Bach’s “Jesus bleibet
meine freunde.” In fact the title best reflects only the first three tracks, Piazzolla arrangements by
José Carli of “La Muerte del Ángel,” “Milonga del Ángel,” and “La resurrección del Ángel.”
Piazzolla’s angel is hardly the conventional haloed-cherub, but the 12 cellists do dig into the
tango rhythms. After the Piazzolla, the CD becomes mostly an ethereal, if not morose, affair, and
the fuzzy aura of new-ageism envelops some of the tracks (Volker Schlott’s “A solis ortus
cardine,” with soloist Jocelyn B. Smith, and the lengthy “Miniaturr (einer Seelenreise)” by
Markus Stockhausen).

The oddest track, “Let us praise him,” comes from Schlott and Smith. Here Ms. Smith resorts to
a bland Gospel-inflected style, rather like Whitney Houston beseeching the Lord. Three tracks
later the cellists take on Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres,” a typically spare, moody piece. Some listeners, in
other words, will appreciate the disc’s eclectic mix; others will be as dismayed by some tracks as
delighted by others. The 12 cellists’ musicianship is never in doubt, especially when heard in a
Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann arrangement of a selection from Mendelssohn’s Elijah. The purity
and honestly spiritual effect in that selection goes a long way toward excusing the excesses

Only the sales figures can determine if the 12 cellists will receive the absolution of the market
place for any perceived sins against taste committed with Angel Dances.

Chris Mullins

image_description=Angel Dances
product_title=Angel Dances
product_by=Die 12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker
product_id=EMI 0094635703023 [CD]