Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Fantasia for an Orchestra of Cellos

 From the Internet Archive, audio of the Fantasia for Orchestra of Violoncellos
The full title of this late piece by Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) is Fantasia Concertante for Orchestra of Violoncellos. Composed in 1958, it was recorded in the same year in NYC on November 30, 1958. Villa-Lobos conducted the Violoncello Society Orchestra. I believe this may be the only recording of this work. Performance comes with a daunting problem: it requires 32 cellists. Obviously, that was not a problem for NYC. Not the best Everest recording in the sound department; it was made in their first year of operation. Transferred from the original Everest stereo LP SDBR 3024 by Bob Varney. 
This is indeed a distinguished group of cellists. Here's more information from the Violoncello Society:
The piece was written that year for the recently-formed Violoncello Society, at the request of Bernard Greenhouse. Its première at Town Hall, as well as this recording, featured the composer conducting, and Mr. Greenhouse performing the principal-solo part. They were joined by an orchestra of a number of New York’s most eminent cellists, including Luigi Silva, Harvey Shapiro, Claus Adam, Janos Scholz, Madeleine Foley, Jascha Bernstein, Marie Rosanoff, Daniel Saidenberg, Alan Shulman, Seymour Barab, and many others — all members of the Violoncello Society.... This celebrated achievement is one of the numerous landmarks in the Violoncello Society’s important ongoing mission.

The Everest LP has never been reissued on CD, but it shows up occasionally on eBay. A CD reissue would be nice, but better would be a modern recording of this fine work. A prominent cellist needs to round up 31 friends to make it happen!

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