Album Review: Cellist Diana Golden’s ‘Tanbou Kache’ (Hidden Drum) is a Remarkable Collection of Modern Haitian Composers

By Laurence Vittes | From the November-December 2020 issue of Strings magazine


The most remarkable piece on Diana Golden’s recital of original music, transcriptions, and arrangements by 20th- and 21st-century Haitian composers, Tanbou Kache (Hidden Drum) (New Focus Recordings), is Werner Jaegerhuber’s Petite Suite in C minor for solo cello. It starts out as the reminiscence of a Bach Suite from a 20th-century perspective. The opening Prelude explores the same limited registers as the early Suites and just when you are convinced this retro Bach won’t work, you realize how engrossing the cellist’s sound is, and you realize it’s not really Bach after all. The Menuetto is the same but maybe as if it had been inverted, suggesting the presence of other, eerie voices. After an Allegro grows increasingly complex in its handling of Bachian technical quirks while sounding new lyrical notes in unexpected high reaches, the concluding Tema contrapunctistica plods along wonderfully like E-flat major yearning to be D major. Played with eloquent command by Golden, it’s 15 minutes of pure delight, even if Bach didn’t write it.


The other most remarkable pieces on the album, which includes Shawn Chang piano, are Daniel Bernard Roumain’s transcendental five-minute excerpt from his 80-minute One Loss Plus meditation and Jean “Rudy” Perrault’s imaginary conversation between Martin Luther King and Malcolm X on Barack Obama’s inauguration to the presidency, which has a calm, inspirational tone that couldn’t have come at a better time.

The many other lovely things here include Justin Élie’s Légende créole, which moves effortlessly high on the A string, languorous like Faure’s Elegie, and the four movements of Frantz Casséus’ little Suite haïtienne, highlighted by a wonderfully incongruous jazz riff, a sweet melancholy pastoral lyric, and a charming characteristic dance.