Cello Spice is a cello ensemble which can include up to 32 instruments. On A Celebration of Cellos there are four players: Mark Bailey, Gillian Copp, John Davidson and Allison Lawrance. All are fine virtuosos, as can be heard on this recording.

Although there had not been a great deal of music written for multiple cellos in the past, some was composed in the 20th century and a great deal more is becoming available each year of the 21st. Giacobbe Basevi Cervetto (1690-1783), however, was one of the first composers to consider the cello a solo instrument and he wrote music to be played by more than one cello. An Italian of Jewish descent, he immigrated to England, where he became an important Classical player and a well-respected composer of cello music. He wrote the Trio No. 2 sometime around 1740 or 1741. His music is not very difficult and I think his melodic trio might be good for student recitals.

From the 18th century we skip to the 20th. The Suite for Four Cellos by Walther Aeschbacher (1901-1969) begins with an interesting melodic first movement followed by contemplative close harmony in the second movement and strong debate between all four cellos in the third. The final movement seems to be a child of its time, 1941, because it is pessimistic and its resolution is less than satisfying. Four cellos playing Enrico Mainardi’s evocation of night gives the piece a dense texture a smooth lyricism that is not easily forgotten. I loved the “heavy lifting” cello sounds that undergird the melody at the beginning of Scottish composer Nigel Don’s Cello Quartet. This piece was written in 1972, but its melodic base looks forward to our own century. Another Scot, Marie Dare, wrote Six Pieces for Cello Quartet in the late 1950s. Only the first, “Elegie,” was published. The others are still held in the archive of the Scottish Music Information Centre. “Chant” is a melodic song as is “Aria.” “Valse” and the “Rustic Dance” invite slow dancing, and “A Day-Dream” is exactly that, a soft, expressive work that encourages dreaming.

Joaquin Roderigo’s Two Courtly Pieces for an orchestra of cellos really ask for a cello quartet and that is what Cello Spice gives them. Rodrigo’s composition calls forth a colorful and tuneful Spanish ambience with familiar rhythms, colorful phrasing, and a passionate melodic dialogue between the four instruments. Anita Hewitt-Jones’s Spanish Dance is another sprightly piece with an Iberian flavor. Michael Norris’s Afro-Cuban style Rumba is actually a work originally written for the composer’s own instrument, the bassoon. Here, it is in an enchanting version for three cellos.

Cello Spice is a group of virtuosos who prove their mastery with this delightful recording. Divine Art’s sound is clear and crisp despite the recording having been made in a church. I really enjoyed this festival of cello music and think that cellists, cello students, and those that just love the sound of the instrument will want to own this disc.

—Maria Nockin