An uncompromising but compelling journey rewards close listening

Anton Lukoszevieze: Sheen

The Strad Issue: November 2023

Description: An uncompromising but compelling journey rewards close listening

Musicians: Anton Lukoszevieze (cello)

Works: Sheen: Solo for Cello

Catalogue number: THE TRILOGY TAPES TTTCD001

Though it employs an unapologetically 21st-century vocabulary of rasps and whispers, there’s a lot to compare the half-hour, 12-section Solo for Cello by young Manchester-born composer and conductor Jack Sheen with a piece such as Paganini’s notorious Caprices. Both are breathtakingly virtuosic – in Sheen’s case, written specifically for contemporary cello guru Anton Lukoszevieze, who dispatches the work’s complex catalogue of rarefied sounds from a detuned, heavily muted instrument with unwavering commitment and insight. Both, too, devote their individual sections to in-depth explorations of particular techniques or musical motifs – which, in the case of Sheen’s twelve contrasting sections, very persuasively butt together nervy mechanical clickings with dense, rumbling harmonies and even lyrical melodic fragments, each considered and reappraised in hypnotic not-quite-repetitions. Both works, too, serve as musical celebrations of their solo instruments: here, the remarkable richness of sound of which a cello is capable, barely nodding towards conventional playing.

Sheen’s work is strangely magical in its evocations, and toys mercilessly with perceptions of time and of noise versus music, but its twelve-part structure leads you on a deeply involving journey through instability and threat to eventual stillness. It’s a tough but rewarding listen from a composer who clearly has plenty to say that’s fresh and provocative; Lukoszevieze’s performance brilliantly reflects his very human struggles with this thorny material, in a close, authentic recording that captures every sonic nuance.

David Kettle