This disc featuring a selection of chamber works for string quartet, violin and piano, solo piano and soprano, flute and string trio is the first recording devoted exclusively to music by this composer, and it shows her to have a compelling, distinctive, and passionate compositional voice.
The most impressive work on the disc is Taking Flight, written for the Kreutzer Quartet in 1999. This substantial work is characterised by delicate but unsettling sustained passages, punctuated by anguished dramatic gestures. The composer describes her intention in the quartet as being to ‘open doors on the past’, and many of the thematic and harmonic fragments manipulated in the piece are taken from either her own earlier music, or from works by Birtwistle, Debussy, Gerhard and Bartok. This is a work which I would strongly recommend to string quartets looking for contemporary repertoire that has direct emotional power.
Other works featured on the disc include Traceries and Arcosolia for violin and piano. Traceries was written in 1997 for the thirtieth birthday of Peter Sheppard Skaerved, the first violin of the Kreutzer Quartet and violinist on this recording. As with the string quartet, Traceries also acknowledges the influence of previous composers, in this case Stravinsky and Bach. Arcosolia, written in 1999 was dedicated to the composer’s grandmother, who had died that year. An arcosolia is the burial chamber within a mediaeval church, and the main thematic material is based on the notes A, C, G (sol in the solfege system), and A, taken from the letters of the title.
Impressa Amorosa, a collection of short pieces for solo piano, performed by Aaron Shorr, again explores the contrast between quiet, static sections, and dramatic activity. The disc concludes with Aster for soprano, flute and string trio. The work was written in 1995, and sets six texts from an anthology of ancient Greek poems. Soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers gives and impressive performance, particularly in the subtle shading and colouring of her line.
The performances on this disc are generally very good, and the recorded sound excellent. Metier have a strong track record for producing recordings of young and little known contemporary composers, and deserve every support for continuing this important work. A highly recommendable recording.