Ensemble Arcadiana Offers Spirited Performances of Eleanor Alberga’s String Quartets


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British Jamaican composer Eleanor Alberga’s musical profession has traversed a wide range of occupations, collaborations, and musical types. Along with her work as a live performance pianist, her experiences as a collaborator vary from offering musical accompaniment for up to date dance improvisations to taking part in Jamaican and African folks ensembles. As a composer, Alberga has traditionally garnered consideration for works that draw from her various musical background, together with chamber and orchestral works reminiscent of Dancing With the Shadow (1990) and Come up Athena! (2015), in addition to an opera, Letters of a Love Betrayed (2009).  Her latest album, String Quartets 1, 2, & 3 (Navona Data, 2019), that includes Ensemble Arcadiana, presents her string quartets that draw extra overtly from western artwork music’s stylistic canon.

Alberga’s string quartets prioritize compositional methods that develop melodic and rhythmic motives, concord, and counterpoint to create clear musical types and distinct characters. This readability and sometimes episodic growth can, within the context of the entire album, result in predictability in longer tracks. Nonetheless, persistent listeners are rewarded with a number of refreshingly modern moments of timbral and textural exploration.

Eleanor Alberga--Photo by Ben Ealovega

Eleanor Alberga–Picture by Ben Ealovega

Alberga’s first and third string quartets have been commissioned by the Maggini Quartet in 1993 and 2001 respectively. Maggini, who’ve a powerful working relationship with Alberga, may need recorded the album have been it not for the loss of life of second violinist, David Angel (1954-2017), to whom the album is devoted. Fortuitously, Ensemble Arcadiana, comprised of Thomas Bowes (violin), Jacqueline Shave (violin), Oscar Perks (violin), Andres Kajuste (viola), and Jonathan Swensen (cello), have additionally labored carefully with Alberga throughout the yearly Arcadia Pageant, organized by Alberga and her husband Bowes. With this familiarity, Arcadiana brings spirited and energetic interpretations that successfully painting the number of musical characters present in Alberga’s quartets.

Impressed by a physics lecture on the character of matter and vitality, Alberga’s String Quartet No. 1 begins explosively with a sequence of angular and energetic melodies that rapidly turn into an intricate fugal texture. Following a roughly symmetrical kind, melodic and rhythmic motives from this overture are developed by means of a sequence of texturally and characteristically diverse episodes. Right here, Arcadiana’s interpretation creates drama and suspense in sparser textures, damaged by hovering violin duets over throaty cello tremolos and full ensemble interjections. The second motion takes a slower developmental tempo, utilizing breathless, unfurling melodies to depict the feeling of floating in close to zero gravity. Alberga’s writing and Arcadiana’s interpretation present nice consideration to those melodies with rigorously constructed phrases. The third motion pursues an identical thread of close to steady musical growth, combing the primary motion’s rambunctious moments and second motion’s excessive lyricism.

In String Quartet 2 (1994), Alberga iteratively develops the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic materials launched within the opening bars of the piece. Within the first half, the developmental episodes extra overtly retain the opening materials’s energetic, syncopated character, echoing the primary and third actions in Quartet 1. The second half, nevertheless, takes a fascinating and contemplative flip in direction of placid variations on the opening motive. A forlorn violin melody is adorned with wispy harmonic trills, giving approach to lush supporting harmonies, lastly reworking right into a galavanting pizzicato texture.  Right here, Arcadiana takes larger interpretative dangers, discovering the total dynamic and timbral limits of Alberga’s writing with exquisitely paced phrasing.

Eleanor Alberga--Photo by Ben Ealovega

Eleanor Alberga–Picture by Ben Ealovega

String Quartet 3 (2001) synthesizes tonal and twelve tone methods to create an expansive work in a standard 4 motion kind. Emanating from and returning to a single pitch middle, the opening moderato motion makes use of these methods inside a now acquainted sample of steady growth. Nonetheless, Alberga’s writing on this motion finds novelty with an elevated timbral and textural palette offering depth to sweeping melodies nicely suited to Arcadiana’s soloistic expertise. The second motion, “Scherzo,” playfully explores the string quartet’s excessive and low registers by creating angular contrapuntal line between the cello and higher voices. Arcadiana’s interpretation efficiently finds humor and joviality on this texture, highlighting rhythmic interjections and the number of characters current. The “Adagio” motion develops and juxtaposes the placid melodies from the primary motion and the extra energetic characters from the second. These juxtapositions progressively improve in depth, dramatically culminating in a number of notably delicate melodies nestled inside a fragile texture of wispy harmonic arpeggios and pizzicatos. The ultimate motion, “Allegro,” synthesizes and heightens the musical characters discovered within the earlier three actions. The shortest observe of the entire album, Alberga’s writing and Arcadiana’s interpretations really feel refreshingly directed, if a bit uncharacteristically low in vitality.

All through the album, the person soloistic virtuosity offered by the members of Ensemble Arcadiana ship convincing and spirited performances. Whereas this album will definitely function an essential reference, Eleanor Alberga’s rigorously constructed writing leaves room for different ensembles to take completely different interpretative approaches. Consequently, the album will hopefully encourage curiosity in future performances and recordings of Alberga’s string quartets, in addition to others from her output.