Shauna Rolston is one of Canada's premier cellists, and given her early start (she was introduced to her first cello, an eighth-size model, at the tender age of two), Rolston is one of the most seasoned veterans to be found among Canada's young soloists. CBC's Dreamscape is Rolston's sixth disc as a featured artist and the first to showcase her in standard cello encores; previous releases have concentrated on concerto settings and contemporary music written for her. Dreamscape, however, is presented with a twist on the usual encore format; rather than performing against the traditional backdrop provided by piano or stock orchestrations supplied by a publishing house, Rolston is accompanied by an ensemble of 12 cellists led by Keri-Lynn Wilson. The arrangements are all newly minted by composer and cellist Claude Kenneson, who also contributes a striking original work for cello solo and 12 cellos that lend the album its name. The selection is not entirely limited to works originally created for cello, as alongside the David Popper, Saint-Saëns, d'Indy, Massenet, and Elgar works (the last two written for violin, but commonly played on the cello) we find Falla's Suite Populaire Espagnole and the famous Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony as arranged for this group. The multiple cello arrangements work particularly well in the Falla, as Kenneson skillfully negotiates a middle ground between pizzicato and arco effects in order to project the distinctive rhythmic profile of Falla's Spanish-flavored idiom.
Rolston, however, is the star of the show, and is decidedly shown off to the best advantage in this format. The working title for this album was "Shauna and Friends," and under the circumstances, one surmises it a coincidence that her friends all be cellists; however, it is clear that this is not an equal partnership. Rolston's cello sails above the ensemble in the d'Indy Lied; sings soulfully in the Salut d'Amour; mourns plaintively, but not morosely, in the Kreisler; and is dynamic and intense in the Kenneson work. Dreamscape will find a home with any listener who loves the cello; nevertheless, for those interested in Rolston as a concert artist, this disc provides a strong and coherent introduction to her particular brand of artistry, not to mention being an entertaining and fun recording to listen to in general.