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Anne-Marie McDermott brings personality to Schubert without drawing more attention to herself than to the composer – see review on page I

rational thought into free-wheeling improvisation’, Soper writes, and so her three Cage-like lectures and two improvised Dialogues, set to poetic and philosophical texts both spoken and sung by Kafka, Berkeley and Frost, among others, unfold with a romantic sweep of sensory events, both delightful and horrible. And even if you are not familiar with Hylas and Philonous, by the end of the album you will have encountered their thoughts so intimately that you will begin to wonder whether words are the music or vice versa.

The heart of the suite might have been called ‘Brush up your Parmenides’ for its way-off-Broadway inclinations, where philosophy is best when it’s intoxicating. The narrative is brilliantly constructed to set up key moments such as ‘Night-shiner, shining in alien light’, with wonderfully florid harp-like flourishes on the piano stretching the limits of the form, childlike scamperings alternating with Pluta’s deep, sonorous electronic gong strokes, and vocalises floating off into mirrors by Vermeer.

The musical experience takes place amid digital clicks like mutant insects in 1950s sci-fi flicks. The professorial spoken parts keep you waiting for punchlines which, like New Yorker short stories, never come. Drew Daniel’s intensely descriptive booklet notes make an excellent guide. Laurence Vittes

Teirstein Azazme Songsa. Letter from Woodyb. Restless Nationc. Secrets of the Northd a Yair Dalal oud dMarco Ambrosini nyckelharpa Andy Teirstein adulcimer/bharmonica cCassatt Quartet; adMivos Quartet; bJanáček Philharmonic Orchestra / Jiří Petrdlík Navona F NV6397 (61’ • DDD)

Andy Teirstein (b1957) composed his string quartet Restless Nation (2010,

rev 2020) after a sabbatical year during which, with his wife and two young children, he toured remoter areas of the United States to study its ecology, geology and astronomy. In six highly contrasted movements, this vivid and compelling suite records impressions of that tour, as in the first movement, ‘My Eyes were Hungry’, named after a comment of his son’s at seeing the Grand Canyon: ‘Papa, my eyes were hungry … and I didn’t know it!’ Succeeding movements were inspired by landscapes from the Smoky Mountains to the Rio Grande via (in the fourth movement) Goree Island.

Restless Nation’s finale, ‘The Way Home’, is the most explicitly folk-derived, based in part on ‘The Hangman’s Reel’, with a variant tuning for the first violin ‘borrowed from Arkansas fiddlers’. Folk music runs like a skein throughout Teirstein’s music and is central to his orchestral dance piece Letter from Woody (2011), inspired by a letter Woody Guthrie wrote to the expectant mother of his child in the 1940s. Teirstein’s orchestral output is relatively modest, so the symphonic poem – in truth, a five-movement suite – he later extracted from it, with a solo harmonica prelude performed here by the composer, provides welcome textural contrast to the string quartet-based remainder of the programme.

Folk music from Teirstein’s travels informs the other two works, which by virtue of their instrumentation will intrigue many. Secrets of the North (2015-16) started life as incidental music to Isak Dinesen’s The Sailor-Boy’s Tale and uses extensively the Swedish keyed folk fiddle, the nyckelharpa, played with nice feeling by Marco Ambrosini in this ninemovement suite. Azazme Songs (c2017) goes one further, combining the Middle Eastern oud, played by leading exponent Yair Dalal, with the quartet and an Appalachian lap dulcimer (intended to emulate the sound of the Bedouin sumsumia), played by Teirstein himself. In four slightly larger movements, Azazme Songs evokes Bedouin camel drivers’ songs or hjennies. It is an enchanting set, on an enchanting album. Nicely balanced sound. Guy Rickards


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