Maya Beiser, World To Come

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Cellist Maya Beiser first came to prominence as a member of New York's Bang On A Can All-Stars, and when she struck off on her own, she continued to take an unconventional approach to concerts and records. This collection features four of contemporary music's brightest lights, in works for multiple cellos. "World To Come" takes its title from a four-part work for overdubbed cellos and voices (all Beiser, of course) from Pulitzer Prize-winner and Bang On A Can co-founder David Lang. Lang's music runs from the driving and almost aggressively rhythmic to the evocative and downright ambient. "World To Come" spans both: part one uses the cellist's wordless vocals to good, atmospheric effect; part two's restless stirrings lead to the headlong rush of part three's rhythms. Part four, featuring multiple layers of voice with the cello soaring overhead, is like a chromatic, unsettling version of ambient music.

Four of contemporary music’s brightest lights, in works for multiple cellos

The sought-after Argentine-American composer Osvaldo Golijov is represented here by "Mariel," an emotive, questing piece for multiple cellos, whose individual lines are all quite lyrical but add up to something bittersweet. Beiser rounds out the recording with two pieces that have been recorded elsewhere, one each from Europe's two best-known "neo-mystics," Arvo Pärt and Sir John Tavener. Pärt's "Fratres" is his most-recorded work, and Beiser's reading of the 8-cello version is lush and beautiful, evocative of empty monasteries and faintly echoing chant. Tavener's "Lament for Phaedra" is essentially a song for cellos — a long, somewhat Eastern-sounding melody that spins and coils back around on itself. Like the Pärt, it is a deeply spiritual piece. But so, in their own ways, are all of the works on this fine collection.