Rachael Elliott Falls into an Atmospheric Solo

Q2 Music Album of the Week for September 20, 2011 | Free Download of "Polka the Elk"

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

With this week dominated by crisp winds and chilly rain, it's the perfect time to settle into bassoonist Rachael Elliott's debut CD on the Music Starts from Silence label.

Elliott, a founding member of Clogs and one of the sharpest executors of new-music currently on the scene, didn't have to look far when it came to assembling this disc, which features three tracks by fellow bandmate Padma Newsome cozied up to tracks by Tawnie Olson and David Lang. Olson's À mon seul désir opens the ceremonies with a haunting duet for bassoon and piano (here played by the fast-fingered Adrienne Kim). Lower registers and jazzy riffs abound in this piece, best suited for a dark and stormy night.

Désir transitions into Newsome's first piece and the album's title track, which features Podouble bassoons in Elliott and Janet Polk accompanied by Bill Solomon's eerie work on percussion and vibraphone. The album picks up speed in the zoetrope motion of With Eyes Cast Down, Newsome's seven-track darling of an opus that makes use of the composer's talents on viola, voice, piano and harpsichord (the last two instruments doubled by John Orfe) and harkens to Glass at his most decaffeinated and mystical -- the final movement is at once heartbreaking and trancelike and worth several replays on its own.

Strongest, however, are the two final tracks, starting with Elliott's solo take on David Lang's Press Release, a work written originally for clarinetist Evan Ziporyn that mitigates low, sonorous bass lines with higher octave pops to engrossing results. While similar in nature to the bass clarinet, Elliott's bassoon here loans a warmer, at times even more fatherly, timbre to this work -- not a bad way of viewing Lang's piece, originally written in his renegade days of the early '90s. Lang's hyperreality cedes to Newsome's briefest track, a calm blanket of textured chords and repetitions in Bed and Rest. Like the album on the whole, it's a piece into which you want to curl up and hibernate.

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Q2 Music's Album of the Week is our weekly review of the newest and most dynamic contemporary classical releases. It focuses on musical discovery, world premiere recordings and fresh perspectives on today's classical landscape. Read our review and stream the album on-demand for one week only at www.wqxr.org/q2music/

 

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