Gramophone reviews Cello Libris: new CD on BIS

"Geoffrey Gordon has built up a substantial and wide-ranging catalogue over the last quarter of a century, with the three works featured here attesting to his imaginative outlook on the musical past.

Inspired by Doktor Faustus, Thomas Mann’s powerful if often fanciful take on the creative ego, the Cello Concerto (2013) falls into a Prologue, seven Episodes and Epilogue that play continuously for 24 minutes (paralleling those 24 years of creativity granted in the Faustian pact). Its trajectory from ‘innocence to madness’ might easily risk overkill but the Dutilleux-like finesse Gordon instils into the relationship of soloist and orchestra (cello only coming to the fore in two trenchant cadenza passages) helps to maintain expressive focus throughout.

The other pieces are hardly less arresting. Fathoms (2015) consists of five impressions after Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with a substantial Prologue representing the storm sequence; the six movements resulting in a cello sonata of a cohesion because of, rather than despite, these extramusical associations. Most distinctive are the final movements, a free-form fantasy that evokes the isle full of noises then a sustained leave-taking whose inexorable descent mirrors that of Prospero drowning his book. More concrete in its associations, Ode to a Nightingale (2018) sets all eight stanzas of Keats’s poem in writing – luminous and astringent by turns – that builds toward an ecstatic culmination with the cello wholly subsumed into the chorus, before those two sound-sources ineluctably move apart as does the poet from his inspiration.

It remains to add that performances are consistently excellent, Toke Møldrup equally at home in the three highly contrasted contexts, but the booklet notes seem more intent on selling than explaining these works. On this evidence, Gordon’s music is more than able to promote itself."

Richard WhitehouseGramophone