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Tag: Kaija Saariaho

A Fearless, Bristling, Undaunted Solo Album by Cellist Hannah Collins

Hannah Collins is the cellist on the wittily scathing DWB (Driving While Black) soundtrack album. Her new solo record Resonance Lines – streaming at Bandcamp – is a treat for fans of low-register sonics, and high-voltage 20th and 21st century works. She doesn’t mess around: her extended technique will give you chills. There’s an iconic suite as well as a very popular, considerably shorter current-day work. Collins’ loosely interconnecting theme celebrates close collaborations between non-cellist composers and the artists they wrote for.

The famous work here is Britten’s Suite No. 1 for Cello Solo. It’s arguably the composer’s best piece, With a spacious yet incisive attack, Collins digs in and lets the overtones bristle through a fearlessly macabre homage to Bach’s Cello Suites, from sudden, shivery sunbursts, to austere drafts filtering under the door, to a pizzicato horror film. Why didn’t Britten ever write anything as chilling or intense as this ever again? We’ll never know. Mstislav Rostropovich’s premiere interpretation is the model for others brave enough to tackle it, but this is equally memorable.

The popular contemporary classical piece here is Caroline Shaw‘s In Manus Tuas. Again, Collins’ brilliance is her semi-savage attack of the composer’s signature, circling riffage. It’s easy to play this as a rapt homage to a beloved sonic space. Collins seems to want to sneak the keg in and then light a bonfire…before the group meditation, anyway.

She opens the album with a briskly crescendoing take of one of the earliest known works for the cello, 17th century Italian composer Giuseppe Colombi’s Chiacona. Kaija Saariaho’s Dreaming Chaconne, a deviously and dauntingly shivery take on the same theme, is next: Collins is undaunted. And she’s undeterred through the sometimes ghostly, sometimes monstrous flurries and slides of Saariaho’s Sept Papillons.

She closes the record with the world premiere of Thomas Kotcheff’s Cadenza (with or without Haydn), a playful and increasingly wild, electrifying, shreddy new work written as a coda for the Haydn Cello Concerto in C major, It’s an apt way to close an album that invites repeated listening.

Ieva Jokubaviciute Explores the Color and Disparity of New Nordic Music on Her New Album Northscapes

Musicologists have a history of obsession with the relationship between terrain and musical traditions. Conventional wisdom is that Nordic composers tend to focus on the dark side, considering the length of winter and winter nights there. And yet, in the summer, that same turf becomes the land of the midnight sun. On her new album Northscapes – streaming at Bandcamp – Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute plays a mix of 21st century works by a terrific cast of well-known and more obscure composers from that part of the world, seeking to capture the influences of landscape, and a lowlit or unlit milieu, rather than reaffirming any preconception of Nordic traditions. The record turns out to be much more colorful than you might think.

Case in point: the two works by Norwegian composer Lasse Thoresen, which bookend the album. The former, Pristine Light, begins with energetically rolling ripples that give way to steady minimalism punctuated by sparkling figures. Subtly, Jokubaviciute balances rhythm and glittering forward drive as the composer reverses the effect of the two devices

Both pieces are taken from Thoresen’s Four Invocations suite. In the finale, Rising Air, Jokubaviciute has fun contrasting a spacious, reflecting-pool minimalism with a spritely hailstorm of upper-register riffage bristling with thorny accidentals.

In keeping with her signature, vast expanses, Icelander Anna Thorvaldsdottir‘s Scape blends disquieting flickers at either end of the keyboard with long, sustained notes, sometimes enhanced by an ebow guitar effect, at other times by prepared strings. A thimble is also involved.

A trio of pieces from Danish composer Bent Sorensen‘s 12 Nocturnes are next, drawing on the character Mignon from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. Jokubaviciute takes her time developing the distantly Romantic allusions of Mignon and the Sun Goes Down, cuts loose considerably more in the miniature Night River and lets the altered love ballad Midnight with Mignon linger enigmatically.

She follows a dichotomy similar to the one in the Thorvaldsdottir piece, if more elaborately cascading and intertwined, in Kaija Saariaho‘s 2007 Prelude. Jokubaviciute also explores contrasts in the lone late 20th century piece here, Lithuanian composer Raminta Šerkšnytė’s Fantasia, shifting between registers, a rather stern longing, playful leaps and bounds, challenging pointillisms and a coy expectancy. It’s the most entertaining piece here.

Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks‘ Music for a Summer Evening is a picturesquely energetic, shifting, seemingly Satie-influenced sunset prelude. Describing the music, he writes, “Towards the end, a kind of folksong is heard: ‘We have survived the time of tyranny and have kept our identity.’” May we all live to do that and more on summer evenings next year.