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The Poet (Romances for Cello)

Michael Hoppé & Martin Tillmann

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Album Review

This multimedia album mixes music with poetry and classic photographic portraits of the poets. The connection comes through composer Michael Hoppe, who had recently rediscovered the 5,000 image collection of his grandfather, famed portrait photographer E.O. Hoppe (1878-1972). Each of the 11 pieces for solo cello (performed by Swiss cellist Martin Tillman) was inspired by a separate poem; the liner notes match poem to portrait. Hoppe's compositions are classically romantic, the essence of a Schumann or Brahms, but without their churning storminess. Although the cello has a wide range, and can even growl when the occasion warrants, Hoppe does not lead the cello to those non-sonorous places; when people say they love the cello, it is this voice, this range, this romance, this timbre that they love. Most romantic concertos have dramatic and bombastic sections, a test of dexterity to be sure, but most listeners really cherish the tender passages of redemption, love, or purity. The orchestra hushes and the cello cries tender tears. Hoppe offers a whole album of just those moments. Tillman plays with extreme warmth and sensitivity; Hoppe's piano and string chamber ensemble arrangements on the keyboard present the cello like the a blue robin's egg in the nest. Hoppe says that the pieces were fully rehearsed and played live in the studio, all the way through with no overdubbing; the album has that immediacy and integrity. Of course, each poem has its own ambience. "Some Other Time" (Carl Sandburg/"The Great Hunt") expresses an achingly simple longing. "Moon Ghosts" (Aldous Huxley/"A Sunset") offers a heartbreaking theme where the lonely poet rekindles a moment of desire. "Diamonds of Rain" (Edward Thomas/"It Rains") also broods over lost romance. Hoppe's Robert Frost poem "A Minor Bird" has the country simplicity of an Aaron Copland composition. The most rhapsodic piece ("Riddles") is based on the shortest poem, a drowned-in-love conundrum titled "Juliet" by Hilaire Belloc. Other poets represented include Kahlil Gibran, A.E. Houseman, Alice Meynell, Sara Teasdale, G.K. Chesterton, and Walter de la Mare. Two other albums complete the Hoppe photography set: The Yearning and The Dreamer (due to be released by Teldec in the fall of 1997), both with flautist Tim Wheater.

The Poet (Romances for Cello), Michael Hoppé
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