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September 28, 1995 - Image 18

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-28

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48 - The Michigan Daily - W/ tU.d e. - Thursday, September 28, 1995

Rostropovich masters Bach's cello
suites with excellent two-disc box set

By Matthew Steinhauser
Daily Arts Writer
Mstislav Rostropovich, arguably
the greatest cellist of the last 30 years,
unites the full collection of Bach cello
suites into a rich, thunderous, expan-
sive body of music contained on two
copmpact discs. As he explains in the
pamphlet accompanying the record-
ing, the 63 year-old Rostropovich
decided that "I must pluck up the
courage to record (all six) Bach suites,
as I have been so closely linked to
them throughout my life."
Rostropovich approaches the suites
with a confident, mature vision, meld-
ing the six suites into a single pol-
ished entity. Each suite, each move-
ment, each note contributes an impor-
tant part to the general direction of the
artist's whole product.
He opens his performance with the
exuberant "Cello Suite No. 1 in G
Major." From the very first notes in
the Prelude of the first suite, the cel-
list grasps control of the listener with
a gorgeous, luxuriant tone underlying
the energetic, upbeat melodic themes.
Rostropovich recaptures the enthusi-
asm of a long past youth, while main-
taining the graceful control of an ex-
perienced 63 year-old.
As the cellist progresses through
the first suite, he senses and responds
to the rambunctious peaks in the mu-
sic. As he descends from the light,
swift spirit ofthe opening movements,
Rostropovich relaxes easily into the
slower-paced, proud "Suite No.4 in E
flat Major."
Through much of this suite, Bach's
leisurely progressions open the door
for Rostropovich to flaunt his mature,
grand sound. He isolates each note,
creating a deep, soulful explosion of
sheer beauty. And within the suite's
basic rhythmic patterns, Rostropovich
recalls his light touches from "Suite
No.l"to proceed deftly through quick
cadenzas and other rhythmic vari-
In the "Suite No. 5 in C minor,"
Rostropovich follows Bach into a
deep, dark dungeon. Mostly played in
the lower registers of the instrument,
the cellist finds solemn beauty in the
roaring notes and growling disso-
nances as he confidently navigates
through Bach's blackest thoughts into
the less dismal woe of the "Suite No.
2 in D minor."
The reflective sorrow of the second


Bach Cello Suites
EMI Classics

the resonant beat of life. Over 200
years after his death, the music world
still feels Bach's reverberations, and
listeners still marvel at Bach's inter-
pretations of the human experience.
The cellist Rostropovich freely ad-
mits that performing Bach mystifies
even the greatest musicians. His
present recording of the cello suites
represent the tangible product of a
maturation process that commenced
in his boyhood when he realized the
near perfect match between the cello
and Bach's music. Since then, he has
sought to master all six of the suites
for cello.
Even now, a half century after his

first introduction to Bach's pieces,
Rostropovich still finds them inspir-
ing and challenging. "(Bach's cello
suites) always allow you to discover
something new. Each day, each hour,
each minute you reflect upon them,
you reach deeper."
Today, after many decades of con-
templating and practicing the same
compositions, Rostropovich unveils
his recording of Bach's cello music.
The resulting fruits of the cellist's
dedicated worship reflect masterful
technical skills, an astounding un-
derstanding of Bach's music and the
indelible mark of his creative person-

cello suite seems to directly contrast
the free eagerness of the first suite.
Rostropovich delicately combines
nimble bowing with an immense som-
berness. In the suite's final Gigue
movement, the aged Russian brings
completion to the cheerless mood
rooted in the "Suite No. 5," playing
the simple concluding lines with sharp
Rostropovich exalts the bittersweet
joy of the "Suite No. 3 in C Major"
precluding the unifying, complexity
of the final "Suite No. 6 in D Major."
His performance of the sixth suite
reflects the best of the previous five
suites, fusing them into one mighty
flast of brilliance.
The cellist effortlessly flows be-
tween light, speedy melodies and
thick, ponderous progressions, eas-
ily combining thundering bass notes
with flighty scamperings through
scales and intricate rhythms. With
the final note of the suite,
Rostropovich signals the end to his
dazzling rendition of Bach's intimi-
dating cello saga.
The prospect of recording Bach's
suites intimidates the world's leading
cellist because, as he proclaims,
Bach's emotional insights "are as vast
in scale as Shakespeare's." Bach suc-
cessfully transformed his understand-
ing of human emotional and sensual
experiences into musical composi-
tions of incredible depth. Within the
measured framework of the Baroque
Period, the composer fashioned fresh,
yet sophisticated, musical creations.
The qualities of the cello suit the
natural feelings and schemes in Bach's
compositions. The deep, mysterious
tones of the instrument generate a
thick, lush sound, forming a perfect
avenue of release for Bach's cello
works - and the rich bass notes echo

Ruslan cellist Mstlslav Rostropovich takes a bow.

Foetus records reissued to satisfy Thirsty Ears

By Ted Watts
Daily Arts Writer
When you hear the word "Foetus,"
does your knee jerk in some presuppos-
ing way, either left or right? Your reac-
tion to the name of Jim Thirlwell's
musical group has likely been tempered
by your socialization towards various
political issues. Anyone willing to sug-
gest that was unintentional?
But let's put linguistic concerns aside
and think about the music produced by
the various incarnations of Foetus. Since
Thirsty Ear Records has just recently
reissued four albums by Thirlwell-
Foetus bands, they would probably be
the best place to begin a musical inves-
tigation. The releases ("Nail" and
"Hole" by Scraping Foetus Off the
Wheel, "Thaw" by Foetus Interruptus
and "Sink" by Foetus, Inc.) originally
came out between 1984 and 1989. They
demonstrate acertain level of growth in
musical style, or at the very least an
Kick things off with "Hole." The
album rams into you with a couple of
samples of men saying "I like the way
you fill out your clothes," and "I wanna
soak my head under your hose." The
song then tears out with a quick paced
drum beat and a guitar that sounds as if
it's running through an accordion ef-
fects box. Tempered with a false start
and a grueling restart, the song is better
structured and more interesting than

anything I remember being on the radio
in 1984. "Lust For Death" is a romp
about selfdestruction that ends up mak-
ing reference to everything from Mae
West to Jericho. "I'll Meet You In Po-
land, Baby" is an eerie ditty about World
War I1 told from Hitler's point of view.
And "Cold Day in Hell' is a slow soul
consuming piece. The line "The in-

=-W Nail
Thirsty Ear Records
scription on my tombstone reads 'Wish
you were here"' trips off Thirlwell's
tongue as if it were a blind man running
towards the Grand Canyon. "Hole" is a
well constructed underground synthe-
sized music, more modern than most
anything today.
"Nail"marksthe slow driftintheFoetus
palette towards instrumentals. The open-
ing track, "Theme From Pigdom Come,"
is a delicate, dark track with strains of
violins and not a note of Thirlwell's well
chewed upon voice to be found in the mix.
The third track, interestingly titled "!"
similarly lacks vocals, but clocks in at

around three seconds. "The Overture From
Pigdom Come" and "Private War" round
out the use of instrumentals on this al-
bum. The liner notes on "Nail" seem to
describe it as a travelogue and guided tour
ofoppression from the Helsinki jail. Con-
cept albums tend towards being oppres-
sive in the singularity oftheir visions, but
"Nail" fails to seem like a concept album
and so avoids the problems associated
with them. It is, instead, a good album
that happens to have certain themes and
underlying events which stitch the al-
bum into a single unit.
"Thaw" has less of an instrumental
feel to it, and less ofa cohesion as well.
While the track "Asbestos' still con-
tains the tantalizing synthetic orchestra
in it, the album is more chaos oriented.
And it's full of socially unacceptable
themes. Imagine the response if the
wrong feminists got a hold of the lyric
"You're achin' for a rapin' in "Don't
Hide It, Provide It." Or the lines "I
know where you live / I know where
you're hiding / Squeal like a piggy" in
the song "English Faggot/Nothin'
Man." I'm not even going to tell you
what "Hauss On Fire" is about. You'll
just have to buy it to find out. Musically
it's bass based and rumbles along like a
dance hit on a Roman slave galley.
Other songs dip from tempered quiet
into heavy anger, as the album as a
whole could be said to do.
"Sink" can be considered being a bit

removed from the need to hang to-
gether, since it is a compilation. Mostly
containing edited versions of some of
the many songs Foetus has released as
singles only, although providing some
previously unreleased material as well,
"Sink" is a good overview of various
Foetus sounds at various times, although
not in any particular order. "Bedrock"
is a dark and slow grinding lap dancing
song, "Ramrod" is a rawer composition
with the admirable byword of "Say
what you mean and say it'mean" that
could quite easily be used to describe
the lyric content of Foetus stuff.
"Diabolus In Musica" is an instrumen-
tal piece based on a heretical composi-
tional principle, and one of a series of
eight instrumental pieces that made up
side B on the original two record ver-
sion of "Sink." Round that out with
some staccato songs like "The Only
Good Christian is a Dead Christian"
and "Calamity Crush" and you've got
quite an album.
These reissues taken together pro-
vide a quite impressive bit of under-
ground'80s music. They're a testament
to a form of electronic music that didn't
get a whole lot of exposure at the time
they were made. And of course, they
provide a way to easily get the albums
once again. Think of them as if they
were a box set, but one where you get
the good, original art instead of new,
crappy art.



The American
From carousel horses in Missoula,
Montana, and memorial murals
in the Bronx, New York ... to a
peaceful sunset in Kotzebue, Alaska,
and a blinding white snowstorm in
Wyoming ... our democracy is chang-
ing in rich, colorful ways. Discover
these and dozens of other fascinating
stories about Americans coast-to-coast
who believe in the promise of our
country and are making it reality.
And why now, more than ever, it's

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