Laura Metcalf, cello. SONO LUMINUS DSL – 92201

Accompanying pianist: Matei Varga

Engineering: Dan Merceruio and Daniel Shores

Some artists come clad in the vestments of conservatory-trained, classically-schooled, “serious” artists. For some of them to even remotely court the off-beat outer reaches of the repertory that fall outside the canonic Bach to Brahms box would be anathema. Others seek instead those dusty little corners of the unexplored realms of the repertory, where they are likely to discover finds that otherwise go unnoticed by the rank and file of the classical music establishment.

Laura Metcalf is one of those oddballs that rock the boat and make changes happen as they bring concert music kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Look at her short bio within the liner notes of First Day, her Sono Luminus debut album and you will see all of the right bullet points: Concert Artists Guild winner, Zankel Hall, Library of Congress, Lincoln Center. But then look further and listen to the contents of this terrific album and you will surely join us in saluting Laura Metcalf as a visionary maverick and a major talent to be welcomed.

She plays Jose Bragato’s Graciela y Buenos Aires with the firm attack and the fierce double-dotted rhythms of someone born steps from the docks of the River Plate. On track 4 of the CD she tackles Alberto Ginastera’s tricky Pampena No.2, op. 21 and transports us to the wide open spaces of Patagonia, playing with expansive bravura.

She brings to the table both Bohuslav Martinu’s Variation on a Slovakian Theme and George Enescu’s quintessentially Rumanian Sonata in F Minor, both interspersed with pieces by contemporaries Caleb Burnhans, whose Phantasie is delightful, and Dan Visconti, whose Hard-Knock Stomp is serious rhythmic fun.

She travels from Marin Marais’ 17th Century, elegantly playing his Variations on La Follia and then shares an emotionally-charged piece by Francis Poulenc, Les Chemins de l’amour, inflecting into the elegantly Gallic melody her very intimately personal touch,  plaintively singing and playing and bringing her debut album to a poignant close.

Rumanian pianist, Matei Varga contributes greatly to the success of the enterprise, switching musical hats from Baroque to 20th century to you name it with assuredness and energy.

The engineering is signature Sono Luminus, up-closely miked, straightforward, un-embellished by post-production smoke and mirrors. The packaging is nice, with a pull-out sheet with bios and unpretentious commentary.

This CD is one for loving replaying.

Rafael de Acha