Rebecca Hartke's Folkfire Falls Short on Both Levels



Self-Produced (www.rebeccahartka.com)


The debut solo album of cellist Rebecca Hartke is titled Folkfire and I’ll be damned if I can figure out why; the album is singularly devoid of either folk melodies or passion. Hartke is classically trained and thus showcases her wares on compositions by Stravinsky, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Hector Villas Lobos, Ernest Bloch, and Miyagi Michio. The closest she gets to “folk” is an interpretation of Bela Bartok’s “Roumanian Folk Dances” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Le Grande Tango.” I hate to break this to the classical crowd, but Bartok was not a folk artist. (Just because one weaves in a few folk melodies no more makes one a folk artist than stepping into a garage makes one a car!) Although Hartke has performed with musicians such as Darol Anger and Paul Winter, this album lacks the earnest temperament of those artists. It is a technically proficient project, but one whose icy precision lacks spark, let alone fire. This is especially the case of the Piazzolla piece. Astor Piazzolla was known for an abandonment that turned tangos into clothed carnality, but Hartke plays him like an academic lecture. In the end, pianist Azusa Komiyama impresses far more than Hartke because she does what Hartke does not: attack her instrument on an emotional level. I rate this recording as highly as I did simply because there’s no denying Hartke’s ability, but in all honesty, very little of the music touched my emotions, spirit, or soul. Hartke would do well to invoke folk artists in style not merely title. Folk musicians aren’t always the best technicians on the stage, but they know how to let down their hair and strike a fiery match. -LV

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