Ashley Bathgate: 8-Track


Cellist Ashley Bathgate releases a recording of works inspired by Steve Reich's Counterpoint series, meant to be performed by a single live performer playing along with seven pre-recorded tracks of the same instrument. This formula has become a standard instrumentation for a wealth of repertoire, expanding the breadth of impact for solo pieces while retaining the connection with an individual performer. 8-Track features new music in this format by composers Emily Cooley, Alex Weiser, and Fjóla Evans who explore this approach with their own musical vocabularies, highlighting Bathgate's rich, expressive playing.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 41:08
03Willow’s Song
Willow’s Song
05Cello Counterpoint
Cello Counterpoint

Cellist Ashley Bathgate releases her third solo album featuring her performance of Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint alongside three new works that take advantage of the versatile format of soloist with layered tracks. Composers Emily Cooley, Alex Weiser, and Fjóla Evans wrote works that expand on Reich’s template, exploring harmonic, dramatic, and gestural contrasts. The homogeneity of timbre inherent in works for layered tracks of the same instrument gives the listener a sense they are hearing a hyper-cello; the compositional strategy both echoes studio techniques that are ubiquitous in commercial music while also amplifying more Romantic impulses of extroverted expression and immersive textures.

The structure and motivic material in Fjóla Evans’ Augun is inspired by the traditional Icelandic song, Vísur Vatnsenda Rósu. Evans organizes overlapping motives taken from the traditional song and creates a shimmering, undulating texture, pushing and pulling between dissonant and consonant voicings. The atmospheric quality of the work tells a non-linear story, painting a complex mix of mournful and resolute emotions.

Emily Cooley’s approach to the layered ensemble was to focus on various groupings of the eight celli as they take on shifting roles in the overall texture. She writes of Assemble, “The title describes what I felt like I was doing while composing: assembling a sort of puzzle. Only at the end of the piece do the eight parts truly assemble into one voice. They all play a slow, resonant chorale that fades into silence." The work ventures through moments of insistent pulse, poignant anticipation, and exuberant lyricism, expanding beyond the bounds of mere assemblage.

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Alex Weiser’s Willow’s Song is an arrangement of a William Carlos Williams setting included in a larger work of his, Three Epitaphs, and here serves as a prelude to his longer work on the album. Shimmer opens by extending the final ascending scalar gesture of Willow’s Song, weaving it into luminescent sound masses amongst the cello ensemble. The piece takes advantage of the physical space in performances, calling for spatial organization of the playback of seven pre-recorded cello parts which accompany the live soloist. Weiser writes, “Shimmer explores this sound world through changes – both gradual and dramatic – in melody and range, as well as through a waxing and waning canonic relationship between each cello and the soloist. As the work develops, the appearance of the opening melodic fragment slowed down in augmentation adds a lyrical and sustained element to the texture.”

Steve Reich wrote Cello Counterpoint in 2003 for cellist Maya Beiser and it is the fourth work in his counterpoint series. In performance, the piece is played by a single live cellist playing along with seven pre-recorded tracks (or in an alternate version, by Cello Octet). This innovation of expanding a soloist into a large ensemble through pre-recorded layers augments the sonic palette of a solo instrument while maintaining the simplicity and personality of an individual performer. Reich writes, “The first and last movements are both based on a similar four chord cycle that moves ambiguously back and forth between c minor and Eb major. This harmonic cycle is treated extremely freely however, particularly in the third movement. As a matter of fact, what strikes me most about these movements is that they are generally the freest in structure of any I have ever written. The second, slow movement, is a canon in Eb minor involving, near the end of the movement, seven separate voices.”

–Dan Lippel

Recorded at Firehouse 12, New Haven, CT

Producers: Ashley Bathgate, Emily Cooley, and Alex Weiser

Recording: Nick Lloyd and Greg DiCrosta

Mixing and Mastering: Nick Lloyd

Design: Marc Wolf (

Photos: Bill Wadman

Ashley Bathgate

American cellist Ashley Bathgate has been described as an “eloquent new music interpreter” (New York Times) and “a glorious cellist” (The Washington Post) who combines “bittersweet lyricism along with ferocious chops” (New York Magazine). Her “impish ferocity”, “rich tone” and “imaginative phrasing” (New York Times) have made her one of the most sought after performers of her time. The desire to create a dynamic energy exchange with her audience and build upon the ensuing chemistry is a pillar of Bathgate's philosophy as a performer. Dynamism drives her to venture into previously uncharted areas of ground-breaking sounds and techniques, breaking the mold of a cello's traditionally perceived voice. Collaborators and fans alike describe her vitality as nothing short of remarkable and magical for all who are involved.

Bathgate was a member of the acclaimed sextet Bang on a Can All-Stars for ten years from 2009-2019. She is also a member of the chamber music group HOWL, TwoSense with pianist Lisa Moore, and Bonjour, a low-strung, percussive quintet. In 2015 Bathgate gave the world premiere of What Moves You, a collaborative performance project with jookin’ dance sensation Lil Buck at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, SC, as well as the world premiere of a new Cello Concerto written for her by Kate Moore for the Gaudeamus Festival in Utrecht, NL. Her debut solo album, Stories for Ocean Shells, featuring a set of works for cello composed by Moore, was released in 2016 on Cantaloupe Music. That year Bathgate also commissioned the ‘composer collective’ Sleeping Giant to write ASH, a six-movement suite for solo cello, which was released on New Amsterdam Records in the fall of 2019. Her forthcoming album, 8 Track, featuring new multitrack works by Alex Weiser and Emily Cooley, as well as a new rendition of Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint, is due this season on New Focus Recordings. Her latest project is a new evening length work by Michael Gordon, House Music, which premiered at the 2018 Cello Biennale in Amsterdam, NL.

Bathgate’s radio/television appearances include performances on BBC Radio 3, WKCR, WMHT, WQXR’s Meet the Composer podcast with Nadia Sirota, NPR’s Performance Today, WYNC’s New Sounds Live, SiriusXM, Late Night and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Her recorded work can be found on Albany Records, Cantaloupe Music, Innova Recordings, La-La Land Records, Naxos, New Amsterdam Records, Nonesuch, Starkland and Uffda Records. She has also recorded for several podcasts presented by Wondery, Gimlet and Stitcher.

Bathgate studied at Bard College with Luis Garcia-Renart (B.M.) before continuing her education at Yale University with renowned cellist Aldo Parisot (M.M. & A.D). Originally from Saratoga Springs, NY, Bathgate began her cello studies with the late Rudolf Doblin, principal cellist and assistant music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic in the 1950’s. After his passing, she resumed her tutelage with Ann Alton at Skidmore College. A member of the Empire State Youth Orchestra at the time, Bathgate was also the unprecedented two-time winner of the Lois Lyman Concerto Competition, performing the Saint-Saens and Schumann Cello Concertos with the orchestra at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. While at Bard College, she was invited to perform both the d’Albert and Barber Cello Concertos with the American Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leon Botstein and then went on to win Yale University’s Concerto Competition in 2008, performing with the Yale Philharmonia in New Haven’s legendary Woolsey Hall.

Bathgate resides in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Fjóla Evans

Fjóla Evans is a Canadian/Icelandic composer and cellist. Her work explores the visceral physicality of sound while drawing inspiration from patterns of natural phenomena. Commissions and performances have come from musicians such as Bang on a Can All-Stars pianist Vicky Chow, Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Her work has been featured on the MATA Festival, Bang on a Can Marathon, Gaudeamus Music Week, Cello Biennale Amsterdam 2020, Ung Nordisk Musik, and the American Composers Orchestra's SONiC Festival.

As a performer, she has presented her own work at venues such as Cluster Festival of New Music, (le) poisson rouge, Mengi in Reykjavík, and at Toronto's Music Gallery. Fjóla has participated in residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, and KulturKontakt Austria, among others. She has studied composition with Julia Wolfe, cello performance with Matt Haimovitz, and completed a master’s degree in composition at the Yale School of Music. In September 2019 she began doctoral studies in composition at Columbia University where her research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Recent and upcoming projects include a string quintet written for the Aizuri Quartet commissioned by the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto, a new work for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as part of their NextGen Composers commissioning program, Íslenzk Ferðaflóra: a song cycle for Dúplum duo based on a taxonomy of Icelandic plant life, VC2 cello duo’s rendition of Ridge & Furrow featured on the album Beethoven’s Cellists, the premiere of Jöklaklukka for Pro Coro Canada, a performance of Lung by the Residentie Orkest in the Netherlands, and the release of cellist India Gailey’s recording of Augun on Redshift Music. Fjóla is the 2017 winner of the Robert Fleming Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Emily Cooley

Emily Cooley is a Philadelphia-based composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music whose work has been described as “masterfully written and orchestrated” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and “a beautiful delicacy” (Vermont Today). Frequently in dialogue with works of contemporary fiction and critical theory, her music questions conventions of narrative, re-imagines emotional expression, and explores the dynamics of power and vulnerability.

Cooley's orchestral music has been performed by the Nashville, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Louisville, Milwaukee, Berkeley, Sioux City, and Eastern Connecticut symphony orchestras; the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra; and numerous university and conservatory orchestras. Her work Assemble, for multitrack cello, was recently recorded by Ashley Bathgate and will be released on Bathgate's forthcoming album, 8 Track.

Also active as a concert producer and curator, Cooley is a founding member and the current publicity director for Kettle Corn New Music, which produces a year-round series of new music concerts in New York City, hailed for creating “that ideal listening environment that so many institutions aim for: relaxed, yet allowing for concentration” (New York Times). Cooley is also a frequent collaborator with incarcerated musicians at SCI-Graterford in Pennsylvania, and she held the Community Artist Fellowship at the Curtis Institute of Music in 2017-18.

Born in 1990 in Milwaukee, WI, Cooley holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. She has been in residence at Yaddo, Copland House, and the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and a fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and the Norfolk New Music Workshop. She is a recipient of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the ASCAP Morton Gould Award. Her mentors include John K. Boyle, Kathryn Alexander, Andrew Norman, Stephen Hartke, Jennifer Higdon, David Ludwig, and Mary Javian.

Alex Weiser

Broad gestures and rich textures are hallmarks of the “compelling” (The New York Times), “deliciously wistful” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “personal, expressive, and bold,” (I Care If You Listen) music of composer ​Alex Weiser​. Born and raised in New York City, Weiser creates acutely cosmopolitan music combining a deeply felt historical perspective with a vibrant forward-looking creativity.

Weiser’s debut album and all the days were purple, was named a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Music. Released by Cantaloupe Music in April 2019, the album includes songs in Yiddish and English sung by Eliza Bagg and has been praised as “ravishing” (The New Yorker), “reverent and magical... devastatingly beautiful,” (American Record Guide), “gorgeous” (Tablet Magazine), “utterly original and exquisitely unsettling... sweeping, bewitching, divinely dissonant... pitch-perfect.” (In Geveb).

An EP released by Bright Shiny Things in September 2022 features Weiser’s water hollows stone, a multi-movement four hand piano work written for HOCKET piano duo (Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff) alongside a solo piano postlude, fade. water hollows stone was extolled as “a compelling work” and “a very immersive disc” (Whole Note); with “substantial pieces” featuring “considerable wealth of ideas and imagination” it is “an EP that qualifies as something more than a mere interim report.” (Textura).

A forthcoming album features two song cycles performed by singer Annie Rosen: in a dark blue night which sets to music Yiddish poetry about New York City at night, and Coney Island Days which explores the Jewish immigrant word of Coney Island in the 1930s and 40s.

February 2024 will see the premiere of a clarinet concerto called Tfiles. Inspired by three Yiddish poems of Kadya Moldowsky, the concerto has been commissioned by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews for clarinetist Andrzej Cieplinski and the Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Warsaw. Subsequent performances will include the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (NOSPR) in Katowice in Spring 2024.

Active as an opera composer, Weiser has two operas in development. Tevye’s Daughters, written with librettist Stephanie Fleischmann, is a commission from American Lyric Theater. Based on Sholem Aleichem’s iconic Yiddish stories, it explores the tragic death of Tevye’s lesser-known daughter, Shprintse. The opera also traces the lasting impact of Shprintse’s fate on her sisters who are now elderly and living in New York. The Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language with librettist Ben Kaplan is set in 1950s post-war New York and follows linguist Yudel Mark as he sets out to write the world’s first fully comprehensive Yiddish dictionary — an effort of linguistic preservation, and a memorial to the dead. Mark is haunted by three divine figures who compel him to breathe new life into Yiddish.

Weiser recently completed another opera with Kaplan called State of the Jews. Hailed as “stunning, heavenly, marvelous” by Israeli National Public Radio, the opera is based on the life of Theodor Herzl and juxtaposes a historical narrative focusing on the last year of his life, with the more intimate story of Theodor’s conflicted relationship with his wife, Julie Herzl, and the toll his political views and activities took on their family life. Developed as a part of a two-year fellowship with American Opera Projects, the LABA fellowship of the 14th Street Y, a Roulette residency, and with support from the ConEd Exploring the Metropolis Composer Residency program, the opera received a series of preview performances at the 14th Street Y in December 2019 and awaits a premiere production.

Other recent projects include a song cycle based on poetry of Adelaide Crapsey, above the bulk of crashing water, to be released on an album by Kristen Gornstein and Jeremy Chan in fall 2023; Shimmer, an extended work for eight spatially arrayed cellos written for Ashley Bathgate which will be released on an album in July 2023; a collection of works inspired by David Vogel’s poem with gentle fingers including a setting for singer and piano, a work for singer with a percussion quartet performing inside a piano, and a pair of works for cello and piano; and Three Epitaphs originally written for singer Kate Maroney and chamber orchestra Cantata Profana.

An energetic advocate for contemporary classical music and for the work of his peers, Weiser co-founded and directs Kettle Corn New Music, an “ever-enjoyable” and “engaging” concert series which “creates that ideal listening environment that so many institutions aim for: relaxed, yet allowing for concentration” (The New York Times), and was for nearly five years a director of the MATA Festival, “the city’s leading showcase for vital new music by emerging composers” (The New Yorker).

Weiser is now the Director of Public Programs at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research where he curates and produces programs that combine a fascination with and curiosity for historical context, with an eye toward influential Jewish contributions to the culture of today and tomorrow. At YIVO Weiser has commissioned over fifteen works from some of today’s leading composers that were featured in concerts he curated.

Weiser’s musical education began in earnest while attending Stuyvesant High School writing pieces for their symphonic orchestra, studying theory and conducting with Joseph Tamosaitis, and studying composition with Paul Alan Levi. Weiser then continued his studies at Yale University and New York University where teachers and mentors included Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Michael Klingbeil, Kathryn Alexander, Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Ingram Marshall, and Christopher Theofanidis.



The New York Times

A quick glance at the title of a new EP by the intrepid cellist Ashley Bathgate might lead you to believe it’s a tribute to the beloved retro tape format. In fact, the reference is to the process of recording by multitracking a single instrument — in this case, the eight parts of Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint. That piece, composed for Maya Beiser (Bathgate’s predecessor as cellist in the Bang on a Can All-Stars), and its layered iterations of Bathgate’s expressive playing serve as a loose inspiration for the new works of three composers.

A remarkable diversity of color and expressive impact is built into these pieces. Fjola Evans builds a set of interlocking motifs for Augun that collect themselves into a folk melody over pedal drones. A more lyrical, Romantic spirit pervades Emily Cooley’s Assemble, undergirded by gentle volleys of accompaniment. That piece has a lulling effect that transforms abruptly when all of the voices play a slow chorale of ambivalent emotional force at the end. Alex Weiser’s Shimmer moves slowly and with lavish repetition, its ideas materializing only gradually through a beautiful and, well, shimmering textural haze.

When Reich’s piece emerges at the end, full of bustling, intemperate energy, it sounds both iconic and freshly inventive against the sounds that preceded it.

— David Weininger, 7.27.2023


Best of Bandcamp Contemporary Classical — July 2023

Two decades ago Steve Reich composed his dramatically pulsating “Cello Counterpoint” for cellist Maya Beiser, where the musician recorded seven different parts of the composition for playback as she performed the eighth part live. That set-up is no longer novel, as this new collection from fellow cellist Ashley Bathgate makes plain, preceding her interpretation of the Reich piece with music from three other composers using the same design.

“Augun,” by the superb Icelandic composer Fjóla Evans, is a deconstruction of the Icelandic folk tune “Vísur Vatnsenda Rósu.” Parts of the song are moved around and recast in a gorgeous tangle of colliding harmony and rhythm, generating a pensive meditation spiked with unexpectedly lyric fragments. Emily Cooley seeks to evoke the quality of a chorale with her piece “Assemble,” imaging the eight tracks as an orchestral arrangement where the ensemble’s components only truly make sense when voiced in total. It’s a real treat to parse the work and savor individual lines, too. Composer Alex Weiser’s brief but lush “Willow’s Song” is taken from a larger work, but it’s reconfigured for Bathgate, functioning as a prelude to the other Weiser piece here, “Shimmer.” That work blooms out its final gesture into a cycling array of the pattern, shadowed, repeated, and expanded into endlessly morphing permutations that keep yielding new perspectives; certain lines take on a life of their own several minutes into the piece. It provides a fascinating minimalist contrast to Bathgate’s account of the Reich piece, which concludes the album.

— Peter Margasak, 8.08.2023


Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review

When sometimes I feel like I am tired of Minimalism something good comes along and I pay attention and enjoy it all again. That is so with today’s cello ensemble disk performed so very nicely by Ashley Bathgate overdubbing all parts. The album is entitled 8-Track (New Focus Recordings, BandCamp).

Ashley is a talented and dedicated cellist, a formidable artistic force for this sort of music, really mature and lively as much as beautiful in sound, a ravishing cello voice carefully creating multiple cello parts for some stunning Minimalist works. Each work follows the game plan of Steve Reich’s Counterpoint series – that is, the performer plays a live part on top of seven tracks previously recorded on the same instrument.

All the works we hear so deftly constructed on this unique album were written in this millennium in the Counterpoint plan and come alive in the doing. So we get the Steve Reich gem “Cello Counterpoint” (2013) that gives us the brilliant passagework juxtaposed with open and then figured long notes for a happy midperiod musical romp fully worthy of the Reich name. Each composer in her or his very own way furthers our appetite for such explorations and productive emanations, so we hear in succession Fjola Evans, Emily Cooley, and two gems by Alex Weiser. Highly recommended.

— Grego Applegate Edwards, 6.29.2023



No, Ashley Bathgate's new release isn't an affectionate homage to that clunky ‘70s playback technology remembered fondly by renegade audiophiles. It's instead a reference to Steve Reich's Counterpoint series, which involves a live performer playing against seven pre-recorded tracks of the same instrument. The series includes works created for flute, clarinet, and electric guitar (the one by Pat Metheny probably the most famous Counterpoint recording) as well as, of course, cello. On her third solo album, Bathgate presents Cello Counterpoint alongside three other pieces that likewise couple the soloist with layered tracks. Composers Emily Cooley, Alex Weiser, and Fjóla Evans build on the foundation established by Reich and go off on adventurous tangents that while different from his creation retain connections to it. That makes for a recording that cellists will obviously love but can be appreciated by any open-eared listener receptive to contemporary classical material.

Currently residing in Saratoga Springs, New York, Bathgate brings years of live performance and recording experiences to the new project. A graduate of Bard College and Yale University, the cellist was a member of Bang on a Can All-Stars from 2009 to 2019 and is now a member of the chamber music group HOWL and TwoSense with pianist Lisa Moore. Featuring a set of cello pieces composed by Moore, Bathgate's debut solo album, Stories for Ocean Shells, appeared on Cantaloupe Music in 2016 and was followed three years later by ASH on New Amsterdam Records.

For Augun, Canadian/Icelandic composer and cellist Fjóla Evans drew for inspiration from the traditional Icelandic song “Vísur Vatnsenda Rósu.” At the outset, see-sawing patterns evoke the impression of keening voices engaged in counterpoint before the focus shifts to other details, a dive-bombing glissando among them. Gradually the elements gather into a shimmering, gently undulating mass that seems to advance and retreat when not entrancing as a slowly swelling supernova. In the as-transfixing Assemble, Philadelphia-based composer Emily Cooley organizes various bowed and plucked parts into distinct groupings until they eventually morph into a glorious chorale. The eloquent articulation for which Bathgate's renowned comes into play here and does much to intensify the lyricism of Cooley's poignant expression.

Born and raised in New York City, Alex Weiser is one of today's most compelling composers; that his debut album and all the days were purple, issued on Cantaloupe Music in 2019, was named a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist intimates as much. While he's the only composer of the four to be represented by two pieces, the lovely, folk-tinged Willow's Song, an arrangement of a William Carlos Williams setting, acts as a bewitching prelude to Shimmer, at twelve-and-a-half minutes the recording's longest performance. As an ascending pattern repeats, the nod to classical minimalism is made explicit, but Weiser moves beyond strict reference in having the cellos blur into a swirling swarm and then splinter into separate supplications. As the dense array continually rises, the effect is mesmerizing, never more so than when the initial, now slowed-down melodic figure arcs across the animated collective and the material flirts with ecstasy. Weiser distances himself even further from Reich's template in having Shimmer work its way episodically through multiple connecting parts.

Written for Maya Beiser in 2003, Cello Counterpoint, similar to other Reich works, frames two uptempo sections with a slower one, the movements in this case unfolding without pause over an eleven-minute duration. Familiarity hasn't dulled the work's impact nor its beauty, which is amplified all the more by Bathgate's exuberant execution. Delivered with passion, the work plays like anything but an academic exercise and instead a feverish, high-energy dynamo. The sequencing of album material is clearly something that was thoughtfully considered. Had Bathgate placed Reich's work first, the others would have been heard in its shadow. Placing his at the end, on the other hand, allows their compositions to be experienced fresh. It also makes Cello Counterpoint feel, when it does arrive, like the natural culmination the project's been inching towards.

Aside from the sensual beauty that results from eight cellos sounding together and the variety of the compositions, what recommends 8-Track as much are the performances by Bathgate. That's not simply a matter of the technical achievement involved in executing the material accurately and synchronizing the eight parts within each piece but something more: how convincingly she creates the impression of a interactive performance as opposed to what each one, in fact, is, one live performance conjoined to seven pre-recorded ones. It's a special performer indeed who can make a multi-tracked production sound like the playing of an expressive live ensemble, but that's exactly what Bathgate does, and it's this as much as anything else that distinguishes 8-Track.

— Ron Schepper, 9.15.2023


The Whole Note

From quartets to octets now, in a manner of speaking. My first exposure to Steve Reich’s music for multiple instruments of the same family was Vermont Counterpoint for solo flute and an ensemble of ten flutes, or pre-recorded tracks of the piccolos, flutes and alto flutes as performed by the soloist, this latter being the case in the 1982 Ransom Wilson EMI release. In 2003 Reich composed Cello Counterpoint for eight cellos on a joint commission for Maya Beiser (who will appear later on in the column). On the recent New Focus Recordings release 8-Track (FCR373 we are presented with Ashley Bathgate’s layered realization of the work, along with new compositions in the same format by Canadian/Icelandic composer Fjóla Evans and Americans Emily Cooley and Alex Weiser. Evans’ Augun was inspired by a traditional Icelandic song and features overlapping motives to create shimmering, undulating textures. Cooley tells us that composing Assemble was like “assembling a sort of puzzle;” only at the end do the pieces come together in one voice. Weiser’s Shimmer unfolds through gradual and dramatic changes, in a waxing and waning of the canonic relationship between each cello and the soloist. This is the closest in minimalist spirit to Reich’s original which concludes this inspired disc. Bathgate’s technical control and musicality shine through each of these contrasting works within a common context, resulting in a mesmerizing recording. My only concern is that the two most similar sounding works, Weiser’s and Reich’s, are placed side by side. I would have preferred the disc to begin with Cello Counterpoint thus presenting a context for the project.

— David Olds, 10.15.2023



Cellist Ashley Bathgate steps into two major contemporary traditions here. Her program concludes with Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint, an immensely influential work for one cello played live and recorded seven more times. (Hence the album’s 8-Track title, which has nothing to do with the old car stereo tape format but will bring a smile for listeners of a certain age.) That work spawned a variety of works for solo instrument and tape, but Bathgate’s selections are fresh and invigorating. She is also part of a performance tradition; she is the successor in the Bang on a Can All-Stars to Maya Beiser, for whom Cello Counterpoint is written. Composer Fjola Evans deploys the cello-tape combination to provide a drone-plus-Icelandic folk melody combination, while Emily Cooley’s Assemble moves Reich’s ideas in a Romantic direction. Alex Weiser’s Shimmer is aptly titled, with melodic motifs coalescing slowly out of an indistinct background. All of the music is precisely played, with a lyrical layer, and those interested in the postminimalist tradition may well find it an essential release.

— James Manheim, 8.29.2023


Take Effect Reviews

The New York City cellist Ashley Bathgate fleshes out a listen inspired by Steve Reich’s Counterpoint series, where the 5 pieces are live and pre-recorded and document her profound familiarity with her instrument.

Augun, by Fjóla Evans, starts the listen and is influenced by a traditional Iceland song, where the shimmering, dissonant textures create a mesmerizing climate, and Emily Cooley’s “Assemble” follows with 8 parts pieced together for rich tones.

The middle tracks belong to Alex Weiser’s Willow’s Song and Shimmer, where the former is full of graceful and emotive song craft, while the latter manipulates space and tension with no lack of melody. The last piece, Reich’s Cello Counterpoint, places Bathgate’s solo prowess amid pre-recorded layers of harmonic cycles.

A highly expressive and technically stunning performance, few, if any other cellists could make these sounds, and it’s gripping from beginning to end.

— Tom Haugen, 2.04.2024


The Arts Desk

Here’s a new recording of a once-popular sacred work that’s fallen through the cracks. I approached it with some trepidation but read, wisely, Jeremy Dibble’s engaging sleeve note before pressing play. Dibble shows Stainer (1840-1901) to have been a decent, principled man and musician. While serving as organist at St Paul’s Cathedral he expanded the choir and improved members’ working conditions, broadening the choir’s repertoire and lead annual performances of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. Stainer served as HM Inspector for Music in Schools and Training Colleges and was a great populariser of serious music. 1887’s The Crucifixion was written to fulfil a perceived need, that of a modestly proportioned Passion-style oratorio which didn’t need huge forces or great technical skill to perform.

Scan William Sparrow’s libretto and you’ll read stretches of text which almost defy musical setting, but Stainer somehow makes the most ungainly phrases sing, and his dramatic instincts are sound – having the chorus play a subsidiary role during the opening recitative and ensuing “The Agony”, makes their entry in the “Processional to Calvary” (“Fling wide the Gates!”) all the more effective. Organist Imogen Morgan is superb at building the tension during the Elgarian march which precedes the big moment. The choral singing here is rich and weighty, Duncan Ferguson’s Edinburgh forces well-drilled and blessed with superb diction. They’re impressive in the five hymns which punctuate the story, “Cross of Jesus” offering comfort after a succinct account of the titular event. Tenor Liam Bonthrone and baritone Arthur Bruce sing with conviction and it’s a pity that Stainer doesn’t give them more to do together; the central duet “So Though liftest Thy divine petition” is glorious. Highly recommended, then. Production values are high, with impressive engineering and a full libretto.

— Graham Rickson, 3.30.2024

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