Giovanni Sollima: Spasimo

Giungla NR 4218-2

Giovanni Sollima is an Italian composer and cellist most likely based in Sicily (unfortunately, no composer or ensemble bios appear in the CD booklet, but the program notes and recording credits prominently refer to Palermo). The title selection on this release is a concerto for cello and small ensemble, a work that is heavily dominated by the soloist and contains an accompaniment usually reduced to a rudimentary, if sometimes busy role. A number of influences can be heard in this composition, including plaintive Eastern European "mystic minimalism' in movement one, atmospheric new-age stylings in the lengthy slow movement, energetic rock idioms in the perpetual motion second movement, and exotic Near Eastern melodic leanings in both movements one and four. Sollima's compositional strengths are twofold: an irresistibly bouncy sense of rhythmic drive in fast tempo selections and an ability to create attractive, often seamless slow-speed melodies. His attempts to stitch together smaller sections into larger formats prove less successful; for those movements in which it is essayed, there is little sense of large-scale direction or transition. Those movements, such as the fourth, that limit themselves to a single idea work best here. Conceptually, the finale is the weakest part of the piece; regrettably, Sollima is content here to repeat the opening movement's melodic figure at length, then segue into a passage from movement two rather than present either new material or significant variants on old material. 

II Tracciato di Marta also betrays a strong ambient music influence but surprisingly undercuts the idiom's inherent blandness somewhat by employing unusual chord progressions, some of which are far-flung enough to invoke echoes of Richard Strauss. The music of Keith Jarrett and Philip Glass clearly leave their mark on the bubbly, kinetic album closer Sento il Canto in Curva. 

Performances are good. Sollima's cello playing, while sometimes betraying a rather thin tone in soft passages, is generally effective; his finger technique is fluidly capable and his sense of long line (imperative in music of this type) is keenly developed. Sound quality is okay and production is good. 

Listeners who enjoy Gorecki's Third Symphony and pop-influenced classical music will likely discover some things to enjoy here, while those keen on new-age music will find this release to be a step up from their usual fare. 

David Cleary