Eleanor Alberga: Wild Blue Yonder
Thomas Bowes, violin. Eleanor Alberga, piano.
Richard Watkins, horn. Nicholas Daniel, oboe.
Thomas Bowes and Oscar Perks, violin.
Andres Kaaljuste, viola. Hannah Sloane, cello.
Total Time: 49:31
Eleanor Alberga is represented by 4 unique chamber works on this new collection from the UK-based, Jamaican-born composer. Beginning in the 1970s, Alberga expanded beyond her solo piano career with composition after landing at the London Contemporary Dance Theater. Since then she has composed numerous works for that ensemble in addition to concert pieces in all genres. Two works for winds and string quartet are set apart by pieces for violin and piano.
Her husband, violinist Thomas Bowes, is featured on two earlier works that bookend this new release and feature her on the piano as well. (These were recorded live.) The first of these is No-Man's-Land Lullaby (1997) which is a fascinating work that hints at Brahms' "Lullaby" set against Alberga's own contemplation of war and heritage. The album concludes with The Wild Blue Yonder (1995) which is a more modern style piece using sparse piano ideas and more atonal writing that creates a more interesting dramatic quality coupled with the slight bent pitches and glissandi in the solo instrument. It becomes more agitated as it progresses making for a fine technical showpiece.
Shining Gate of Morpheus (2012) is a work for horn and string quartet. It is a somewhat episodic work that takes us on a journey through dream states. The musical language is quite accessible and dramatically engaging with some stunning work for the trio itself and interesting horn writing that opens with a fanfare idea. There are also some interesting timbral explorations that shift ideas from the horn and back into the string lines which makes for a compelling and dramatic work. The other similar chamber piece here is for oboe and string quartet. Composed in 2007 under a commission from the City of London Festival, Succubus Moon explores darker realms in 0ften more experimental textures and sounds. The piece is no less dramatic and feels a bit more visceral in its exploration of dissonances than the previous works. The oboe line can add an often more plaintive tone at times. The textures here are a bit denser than in the previous works which makes for fine contrast.
The album presents two sides of Alberga's musical style. The works on the front end of the album are the more accessible musically and draw the listener slowly in to her sound world and compositional approaches. The latter two pieces demonstrate her compositional skill in crafting dramatic music in more atonal realms. Each has something unique to offer the listener interested in discovering a new voice.