Inspired By Bach
(New Focus, Oct. 19)
Violinist Movses Pogossian energetically takes on three contemporary compositions inspired directly or indirectly by Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Kaija Saariaho, Gabriela Lena Frank, and Andrew McIntosh are the three composers. Saariaho's Frises makes use of her characteristically rich textures, which is accomplished through electro-acoustic manipulation and the addition of other voices, both bowed and hammered. Frank's interpretation, Suite Mestiza, aims to illustrate Andean culture in South America and restricts itself to unaccompanied violin. It features sections like Pinkillo llorando (Crying Pinkillo Flute) and Luciérnagas (Fireflies). Plenty of double stops and a percussive style call Bach back into the picture. The disc finishes with McIntosh's Sheer, in seven unnamed parts. It fluctuates between outbursts of chaotic note cluster and flat, resonant drones. It even has an accompaniment of "bowed wine glasses!" Listening to this disc, you can play a fun game of "Where exactly did this come from in Bach?" Or not! You can forget all you know about Johann Sebastian and have a wonderful time listening.
Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya
Live: Canada 1962 & 1963
(Doremi, Oct. 19)
Legendary French guitar duo Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya play live in Quebec in 1962 and 1963. These are recordings meant for radio broadcast, and that means they include the radio announcer's introduction and transitions between pieces. The concerts themselves were wildly popular, but these recordings were never meant to stick around. This release is the first such recording to make its way into the public, and it is indeed very intimate. Highlights include Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur's Elegie, a work composed especially for the duo, and an improvisation by Poulenc. You can hear the uneasy hush of the crowd and their presence together on stage in the way only live recordings can capture. Saying they have "chemistry" is imprecise, so I will say their playing styles are perfectly suited for one another. For a duo who performed thousands of concerts together, this recording captures a few singular moments. It's also worth mentioning that Presti died quite young just a few years after these recordings. I hope they were happy together.
H e (a) r
(Sono Luminus, Oct. 26)
Collage-like and ultra-new, this set of seven world premiere recordings by the all-female Icelandic ensemble and musical organization Nordic Affect is a certified "Yes! Listen to this!" Halla Steinunn Stefánsdóttir's title piece, H e (a) r, incorporates spoken word over a sparse landscape of sounds and is woven through the rest of the compositions, lending a sense of listening (h e (a) r-ing!) to the record as a complete object. Those other compositions include Warm Life at the Foot of the Iceberg, which besides being a fantastic title is also a lush, surprising kind of narration of the polar environment. The pieces on this record work together to entwine strong feminist assertions, environmental reflections, and ambient departures that seem to encourage listening on the part of you, the listener! H e (a) r deserves all the praise its getting, and I look forward to hearing more of this musical poetry in the future!