Recorded at the Recording Studio in the Evelyn & Mo Ostin Music Center at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, “Movses Pogossian’s “Inspired by Bach” documents three new works that follow in the inescapable shadow of Bach’s music for unaccompanied violin. Two of the works presented here (Saariaho and McIntosh), inspired as they are by Bach’s pieces, incorporate elements which enhance the solo violin while Gabriela Lena Frank’s preserves the unaccompanied format.
Saariaho’s Frises for violin and live electronics opens with a drone over which lyricism and instability alternate in free, improvisatory passages. Electronic sounds emerge periodically, splashing the texture with glistening timbres. Saariaho writes that the second section, “Frise de Fleurs”, is based on a ground bass — more active electronics establish a multi-dimensional texture. Delays define the electronic part in the third movement, processing more active and angular violin material. Saariaho writes that she aimed not to create symmetry in her development of this material, but instead constant metamorphosis. The final part, “Frise Grise”, is eerie and processional, as Saariaho develops a passacaglia in the accompanimental left hand pizzicati on three strings, while the haunting melody is played on the fourth string and doubled down the octave in the electronics.
Gabriela Lena Frank’s Suite Mestiza is inspired by the richness of the Andean culture in South America. Frank’s movements of the suite are programmatic and colorful, each painting a picture of a different scene or character from the diverse landscape of the Andes. The imploring voice of a street vendor can be heard in the insistent double stops and the descending scale passages in the second movement, “Vendedora Cholita”. The third movement evokes the high pitched plucked string instrument, the charango, humorously depicting it in the hands of a quirky elderly performer. Fleet fireflies ubiquitous in Peru are portrayed in the virtuosic final movement, “Luciérnagas”.
Andrew McIntosh’s seven movement Sheer for solo violin adds four assisting performers playing bowed wine glasses. The work opens with a vigorous fifteen second outburst that echoes the bariolage passagework in Bach’s solo violin works — perhaps the aggression heard in these phrases is indicative of McIntosh’s desire to break away from the master’s all pervasive shadow. The rest of the movement is a meditation on sustained tones, an about-face from the initial forceful gesture. We hear echoes of Bach’s implied counterpoint in the second and sixth movements as well, while the fourth movement is an exploration of intervals and their microtonal shadings, as if turning an object in one’s hand and looking at it from all possible angles. The fifth movement opens as the first did, with a short burst of energetic, violinistic activity followed by a meditation on one pitch. Later in the movement, the bowed wine glasses provide pedal harmonies, liberating the solo violinist to return to the intense physicality of the opening gesture. The piece closes with a movement similar to the fourth, a meditation on pitch with bowed wine glass accompaniment.
The three works on this recording touch on aesthetics new and old, from Saariaho’s incorporation of older formal techniques such as passacaglia within a context that integrates live electronics, Frank’s colorful depiction of Andean life, and McIntosh’s stark exploration of the essence of violin sound production, “Inspired by Bach” is a thoughtful and reflective look at contemporary approaches to composition for solo violin. Movses Pogossian’s performances are lyrical and deeply expressive, and he is the ideal ambassador for this repertoire that marries experimentation with tradition, and exploration with communication.”
– D. Lippel
Inspired by Bach will be released on Oct. 19, 2018 by the Naxos-distributed New Focus Recordings label.
Listen to the Album over at New Focus Recordings