Cellist Thomas Demenga offers up a colorful program of encores in Chonguri. From the pizzicato tour de force of the title piece by Sulkhan Tsintsadze, which imitates the selfsame four-stringed instrument of the composer’s native Georgia, it’s clear we’re in for a lively and eclectic treat. Pianist Thomas Larcher accompanies Demenga for most of the program, which includes nods to the familiar and not so. Of the latter, Catalonian composer Gaspar Cassadó’s Danse du diable vert is among the more spirited pins in the album’s geographic and chronographic spread. Two Chopin nocturnes give us a taste of home, in a manner of speaking, with the c-sharp minor presented to us in one of the more beautiful arrangements one is likely to find (though I’ll always be partial to Bela Banfalvi’s). The balance here is superb. A dash of Webern keeps us on our toes, his three Little Pieces sparkling with a charm that is, I daresay, romantic. Of romance we get plenty more in the three Fauré selections sprinkled throughout, of which Après un rêve is a highlight, and in Liszt’s evocative La lugubre gondola.
Four Bach chorales, in Demenga’s arrangements, for which he is joined by accordionist Teodoro Anzellotti form the album’s roof.Sounding somewhere between an organ and a hurdy-gurdy, the sheer depth of tone from Demenga’s cello in these isalso offers two pieces of his own, of which the programmatic New York Honk is a delightful end.
Demenga’s playing is such that one can feel the lineage that binds all of this music together into a masterful patchwork as idiosyncratic as it is (seemingly) inevitable. Such programming epitomizes the ECM New Series spirit insofar as it charts the contemporary while paying due respect to the antique in what amounts to one of Demenga’s finest recordings to date and a label landmark. (ECM Reviews)