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20th Century Music for Solo Cello

Ernest Bloch, Robert Muczynski, Max Reger




"Whitcomb plays here with competence... His liner notes are informative... I'd be glad to hear more from Whitcomb."
Moore, American Record Guide [July/August 2020]
"performed quite ably and perhaps even selflessly by Benjamin Whitcomb. It is a good selection of some three less-well-known works... in this Whitcomb recital they stand out as things that supplement how you look at the unaccompanied cello possibilities... post-Romantic without being avant... Whitcomb gives us a reading of these works which are marked for their rather unassuming straight-forward approach. They are neither heart-on-the-sleeve molto-espressivo nor are they spun out with some carpet-making regularity... [Whitcomb] produces a well balanced set of readings that allow the listener to gauge the works properly, assuming an unfamiliarity and/or an appetite for the compositional wholes, as wholes... all three pieces get a bold no-nonsense definition here... They are good to hear..."
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate [April 2020]
But this suite, which dates to 1915, is quite accessible to listeners and is impressive in the way it adopts and adapts Bach’s approach to material that is superficially similar to his. The broadly conceived opening Prelude (Largo) fares quite well in Whitcomb’s hands: he allows the music’s expansive nature to come through without making the music over-Romantic... Whitcomb plays Muczynski’s piece with skill, and there are some nice contrasts in the music between legato lyricism and more strongly accentuated passages.a very fine cellist effectively setting forth some music that has points of interest."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [March 2020]
"The CD opens with Whitcomb expressively playing [Muczynski's] nine-part suite Gallery devoted to specific Burchfield paintings... This suite, as a tribute to Burchfield, sums to a memorable moment to begin the CD which continues Whitcomb’s skillful playing of Reger’s Cello Suite No.2  and Bloch’s “Suite No.2". As it is with the Muczynski suite, Whitcomb holds the listener’s attention by bringing to life the sonic complexity of the Reger and Bloch compositions."
Joel C. Thompson, Cherry Grove Music Review [March 2020]
The repertoire for the cello is substantial and delightful. It includes true masterpieces, and many of the pieces that do not quite reach that high distinction are still a joy to play and hear. In some respects, I find the repertoire for unaccompanied cello the most remarkable. In addition to the legendary Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), there are dozens of other fine works in the genre, most of which were composed after the turn of the 20th century; three of these pieces are heard on this album.

What makes these and other such works most remarkable is their orchestrational efficiency: the way they enable the cello, an instrument that most typically sounds one note at a time, to have enough harmonic implications to “sound self-sufficient”; not required accompaniment to sound complete. These techniques including having the cellist (1) play on more than one string at a time (known as multiple stops), (2) alternate between different melodic ideas (known as compound melody), and (3) implying harmonies, through the pitch classes selected and their placement within the measure. Listening for how these musical devices are employed by Bloch, Muczynski and Reger in the music recorded here can provide another dimension for the appreciation of this distinctive repertoire.

An active recitalist and chamber musician, cellist Benjamin Whitcomb performs frequently throughout the country and abroad. Whitcomb, a member of the Ancora String Quartet and the UW-Whitewater Piano Trio, is highly active in the American String Teachers Association, having served as Wisconsin state president, national Secretary and Chair of the Student Chapters committee and Studio Teachers’ Forum. At UW-Whitewater, he initiated and continues to coordinate the Music Theory and History Colloquium series, Musical Mosaics Concert Series and Summer String Camp. Also a prolific author, he has published dozens of articles in numerous journals and presented more than 30 academic papers at national and international conferences. In addition, Whitcomb contributed to three books and published 10, including The Advancing String Player’s Handbook series, Cello Fingerings, and Bass Fingerings, all well received by Strings magazine and ASTA and AUSTA journals. More recent books include the Compendium of Chords series and the Guide to Practicing the Popper Etudes. Whitcomb is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and Oklahoma State University, and has studied with Phyllis Young, George Neikrug and Evan Tonsing. He is currently Professor of Cello and Music Theory at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, where he has received awards for his teaching, research and service.
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Violoncello by Raymond Schryer (2002), modeled after the designs of Francesco Ruggieri. Bow by J. Martin.

I. Prelude
II. Rainy Night
III. Noonday Heat
IV. Shanty
V. Winter Houses
VI. Ice Glare
VII. Black Iron
VIII. September Light
IX. End of the Day

MAX REGER (1873-1916)
I. Prelude
II. Gavotte
III. Largo
IV. Gigue

ERNEST BLOCH (1880-1959)
I. Prelude
II. Allegro
III. Andante
IV. Allegro

MSR Classics
J.S. BACH & GABRIELLI: 1, 3 & 5
J.S. BACH & GABRIELLI: 1, 3 & 5
J.S. Bach: Cello Suites Nos. 1, 3 & 5