HANNAH LASH (b.1981): Leander and Hero, ESA-PEKKA SALONEN (b.1958): Memoria, FRANCO DONATONI (1927-2000): The City of Tomorrow.
Catalogue Number: 07X062
Label: New Focus Recordings
Description: An enterprising recital by an enterprising group, who specialise in music requiring "a fearless aesthetic and a commitment to 21st-century music". Donatoni's piece is from 1989, and in common with his other late works it has a sparkling, irresistible energy, and, eschewing dogma, sounds like a composer of irreproachable technique reveling in his compositional virtuosity. Meticulously notated and intricate, crystalline and kaleidoscopic, it shows how much sheer fun atonal music can be! Salonen's Memoria was premiered in a concert alongside Berio's Laborintus II, which also deals with memory, and the piece ends with a beautiful, dark-toned heterophonic chorale in memoriam Berio's, which lends the work a cyclic shape, referring back to the slow introductory section. In between is an energetic jeu d'esprit, gathering momentum and building excitement as it goes, with the propulsive post-minimalistic ostinati and predominantly tonal idiom characteristic of Salonen. Leander and Hero is Lash's nine-movement retelling of the Greek myth, with the protagonists represented by a pair of migratory seabirds. The layers of symbolism contained in the commission - by this ensemble - is hard to detect in the music, though its avian narrative and lonely seascape setting are clear enough. Hero and Leander find each other in the swirling flock; they have two intimate duets, one a mourning episode after the storm kills Leander, and the music is evocative and finely wrought, in a very tonal idiom. The music feels like an eloquent poetic narration from antiquity, rather than a dramatic enactment; even the storms are described in terms of strained dissonance rather than depicted in apocalyptic sonics. The work’s loveliest moments are those of courtship, togetherness and lamentation, two soloists circling around one another, backed by a "Greek chorus" of subtle texture from the other instruments.