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Classical - Released March 1, 2010 | Quartz Music Ltd

Cellist Matthew Barley and pianist Stephen de Pledge have devoted their 2005 release on Quartz to music by former Soviet bloc composers, partly as a respectful tribute to the creativity of such important twentieth century figures as Dmitry Shostakovich, Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt, and Giya Kancheli, but also to introduce pieces by two contemporary composers, Franguiz Ali-Zadeh and Mati Kuulberg. Despite the seriousness conveyed by the title, Reminding, the stark brown and black packaging, and Barley's pensive gaze in the cover photograph, this is actually a lively and varied album that challenges first impressions and keeps the listener engaged and entertained from beginning to end. Shostakovich's boisterous Suite from Cheryomushki, Op. 105 (1959, arranged by Barley in 2005), and Kancheli's droll With a Smile for Slava (1997) are seldom-heard pieces in a comic or semi-ironic vein; though they may be dismissed as too silly for a recital of such portentous works as Schnittke's profoundly melancholy Sonata No. 1 (1979), Pärt's somber Fratres (1977), or Kuulberg's wistful Meenutus (1987), their light tone provides some much needed contrast. With the energetic and exotic Habil-Sajahy (In the Style of Habil, 1979) by Ali-Zadeh, Barley brings refreshing Azeri sonorities and avant-garde techniques into the mix, so even the most brooding listener will be roused -- or perturbed -- by the audacious sounds produced on the cello and prepared piano here. However, thanks to these musicians' taste, expressive restraint, and good programming sense, no single mood or style dominates, and the album is well balanced. The sound quality is clear and focused, with realistic presence and natural resonance.