A duo of cellists is a rare thing, as Rui Eduardo Paes points out in his liner notes. And that’s just as true in free improvisation than in classical music. Ulrich Mitzlaff and Miguel Mira offer eight improvisations, nothing over the ten-minute mark. Each track focuses on surprising textural plays and unusual musical connections. And the musicians clearly have a fine chemistry between them. François Couture (Monsieur Délire)
Two of them. Again, I have some of the same problems I had with the solo bass recording above. All very well played but much too much in very well-trodden territory, largely close to what one would imagine any give double-cello recording (not that there were scads of them!) that, say, Emanem might issue would sound like. Very active, very gestural in a 60s/Pendereckian kind of way. But, as before, when they settle in, calm down and listen more, (this is the sense I get) it's fairly rewarding. As with a disturbing number of free improvisers, they sound to me better the "straighter" they play; I often wish people didn't feel obliged to play free.... Brian Olewnick (Just Ouside)
interessante observar a produção musical de Ulrich Mitzlaff,
violoncelista alemão radicado em Portugal, especificamente do ponto
de vista dos duos de cordas em que participou ou que dinamizou. A audição
deste duo com Miguel Mira é indissociável dos que apresentou
em concerto com o contrabaixista Miguel Leiria Pereira ou com o violinista
Carlos "Zíngaro". E, no entanto, não existe uma
lógica de integração ou continuidade deste projecto
com os referidos, mesmo que algumas estratégias sejam semelhantes.
O dueto com Mira está marcado pela duplicação do
instrumento e pelo facto de estes músicos terem personalidades
bastante distintas, o que anula o efeito, ouvido nos anteriores projectos,
da aproximação e do distanciamento tímbrico.
Two different personalities on the same instrument, of diverse backgrounds – Mitzlaff is an "authentic" musician, Mira is described as a "Renaissance man" also skilled in architecture and painting – but regrettably, the result of their alliance is rather disappointing. The good quality domestic recording lets us appreciate the occasional distant echo of birdsong in the background as well as the magnificent timbre of the cellos (one of my favourite instruments) – you can almost smell the wood when enjoying those taps, crackles and screeching harmonics. But the interplay doesn’t sound coherent enough to be published, often lacking structure (which, contrarily to what many people think, is needed in "free" music) and more an accumulation of spurts and instantaneous sketches than the fruit of genuine inspiration. There are intriguing segments, especially when a quietly contemplative vein is highlighted, but they’re related to the loveliness of the tone, not to the actual interest elicited by the improvisations. Halfway through we lose focus and perceive the sounds as repetitive, untailored and unable to trace consistency. Massimo Ricci (Paris Transatlantic)
Seria interessante observar a produção musical de Ulrich Mitzlaff, o violoncelista e compositor alemão radicado em Portugal, especificamente do ponto de vista dos duos de cordas em que participou ou que dinamizou. A audição deste duo com Miguel Mira é, de facto, indissociável da audição do duo com o contrabaixista Miguel Leiria Pereira ou com o violinista Carlos “Zíngaro”, para quem teve o privilégio de ter o contacto com todos os projectos.
While listening to the interplay of cello duo Ulrich Mitzlaff and Miguel Mira, I am reminded of the interaction between my two ten-year old children during our recent vacation. Though not related by blood — and not often together under the same roof — these kids share an uncannily loyal friendship, the same brain and a secret language, all part of a phenomenon that I attribute to both being exactly this age. That is, their mirrored physical and mental circumstances ensure that there is little going on with one that the other isn't privy to; the younger and older kids in the extended family are fine yet lack the same awkward skill-set, now-juvenile dreams and pastimes to properly mesh into this twosome's connection.
And you better believe they have their own set of anarchic rules and test everything they are supposed to do.
By the same token, Mitzlaff and Mira's doubling instrumentation (though the latter tunes in fourths, like a guitar) is an impenetrable exchange of ideas; guide them with staff paper or replace one with a violin or viola and the need to coax common ground might be tenuously complementary, but not exude the anomalous sonic playground Cellos possesses.
A playground this is. As with most trained musicians who now spend most of their time engaged in improvisation, there is an unraveling quality to these eight works, as if smashing the orb of scales and Academia into something still technically sound yet unfettered with piqued elation (literal unraveling, as their strings sound as if they may snap at any moment). After the scuttle-paired-with-furious-drone of the brief introduction ("Shape"), Mitzlaff and Mira approach "Inversion" with a hollow col legno, scraping, dragging and squeaking bows rife with muted anticipation; when the duo peaks near the five-minute mark, the work becomes a disoriented seesaw-lock of haphazard harmonics and sliding fingers, then a windup akin to a cyclical shift from first to eighteenth gear. On the "Tripartition" suite (parts one through three) instrument extensions abound: Mitzlaff and Mira oscillate between a python squeeze and flashing viper strikes, pulling strings, winding tuners, buzzing fingernails and anxiously tapping the entirety of their cellos to successfully, as the note on the disc says, "mimic live electronics". "Discontinuity" and "Asymmetry" display melancholic driving shades of Bartók's fourth and fifth string quartets with the pointillistic fluency of Webern's Fünf Sätze für Streichquartett as the duo now incorporates fierce melodic punctuations and descents into their textural web; and according to the fate of any burning-bright specter, after unanimous shouts and fidgets, they end the closer ("Abstract") with a sleepy sigh.
As with the aforementioned children, Mitzlaff and Mira are intense, sweet, at times seamless, defiant, supportive, full of ideas, and continually enthralling. Most important, they seem to be having fun. Dave Madden (The Squid's Ear)
I know I’m not doing it at anything like a fast enough rate to get the decks cleared before the next set arrive, but I am still determined to keep reviewing Creative Sources releases from the stack here, as so often they are recordings of musicians I don’t know well. So tonight I grabbed another at random, this one a release named Cellos by the duo of Ulrich Mitzlaff and Miguel Mira. Mitzlaff is a completely new name to me, but it seems I listened to Mira’s playing on a CD I reviewed a couple of years back, that, I must be honest, I don’t remember anything about at all!
Cellos then is a set of duo recordings, with each musician, unsurprisingly playing cello. There are no electronics or any post production added, so we just hear eight pieces of (presumably) improvised cello. I say presumably because three of the pieces are named Tripartition parts 1 to 3, and such nomenclature suggests composition of some kind, but listening closely I think I am correct to guess that improvisation drives each of these pieces, even if maybe some kind of advance framework was applied to them.
Musically its active stuff, maybe not something I would describe as busy or frantic as there is a certain airiness to the music that avoids the claustrophobia that full on improvisation can present you with, but its not minimal material. Stylistically it flits between a kind of chamber-like fluidity and occasional jazzy moments, a strange kind of hybrid that at one moment sounds like Beethoven at his most romantic, and the next a kind of plucked string approximation of a jazzy bass solo. The seventh track, Asymmetry is at once the most intriguing and therefore my favourite piece here, a strange blend of searchingly romantic melodic wandering and repeatedly plucked low notes that gradually descends into a highly expressive, chattery conversation, but for a while manages to sound like not much else I’ve heard in a while.
Sadly this isn’t the case for the majority of the CD though, which I guess just sounds pretty much like I imagined it might. Cello duo discs aren’t exactly ten a penny, but most of this release sounds pretty much how you’d expect an expressive improv cello duo to sound, and for that reason it isn’t one I’m likely to pull off the shelf any time soon. There’s nothing particularly bad about it at all, it is skillfully and confidently performed, but there is also very little there that is memorably different to so much other music out there today. One of my favourite lines about CDs of improvised music in these pages is that while they may not break the rulebooks they are still a pleasure to engage with. Well, don’t ask me why, perhaps its a taste thing again, or perhaps its the fact I am listening very tired, but this one didn’t quite give me the spark that usually leads me to reel out that line. Its not that Cellos was in any way unpleasurable, it just didn’t capture my ear as much as I’d have liked. Richard Pinnell (The Watchful Ear)