Sybarite5 just sent me OUTLIERS, a terrific album of contemporary music for string ensemble. After repeatedly listening here’s my rave:
Getting Home (I must be…) by Jessica Meyers begins with an ostinato figure in the lower strings, against which the upper strings introduce their own contrapuntal pattern. They combine, meld, struggle for dominance and, after a developmental section, the piece comes to an abrupt ending, as if home had finally been reached against all odds.
In Yann’s Flight by Shawn Conley, a nervous pattern insistently repeated by the viola is first countered by the string bass, and then the cello, which joins them with a melody redolent of the Argentine Pampas. A rhythmic zapateado pattern kicks in a couple of times, as if to counteract the melancholy tone of the piece that nevertheless manages to arrive at a serenely soulful ending.
Pop Rocks by Eric Byers is an intricate miniature, in which poly-rhythms playfully are set to bounce off of each other in a fascinating contrapuntal vignette.
Hitchiker’s Tales by Dan Visconti divides up into three vibrantly inventive sections: Black Bend, Dixie Twang and Pedal to the Metal, each filled with country, jazz, zydeko, bluegrass, rock and pop riffs that evoke dizzying road trips down the back roads of an America of the mind.
Revolve by Andy Akiho sets the ensemble to work double time as string players and percussionists in a whirlwind of rhythmic patterns, pizzicato, sul ponticello, downward slides, and double stops, in an intriguing miniature tour de force.
Muggadamah by Mohammed Fairouz reminds us that this composer’s talent yields music that can easily bridge the vastness that separates our musical culture from others. Its title evokes the Near East, but its sultry cadences are tonally centered, yet able to stray into moments of tonal ambiguity.
Allemande pour Tout le Monde by Kenji Bunch celebrates universal peace. with music at first solely rhythmic and then gradually melodic in a brief 21st century allemande that ends in an upbeat note of hopefulness.
Kompa for Toussaint honors the 18th century Haitian revolutionary leader, François-Dominique Toussaint Louverture. While the typical Haitian kompa is a lively afro-Caribbean dance, Daniel Bernard Roumain’s laud, at first upbeat soon turns into a heartfelt paean in honor of Haiti’s greatest national hero.
Eric Byers’ Sarabande is an homage to the 18th century dance form often used by Baroque composers to spin out long-lined melodies better suited to listening than to footwork. In this case, Byers creates an emotionally charged stasis for solo cello, gorgeously played by Laura Metcalf.
Blue Bourrée is a charming 21st century commentary on an 18th century dance in cut time by composer Michi Wiancko., as Gi-gue-ly by Ljova is an uniquely sui-generis take on the national dance of Ireland.
All in all, this remarkably original album by Sybarite5, available directly from https://sybarite5.org provides a sampler of the varied music being written today for string ensemble. Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass are the group’s members and they are extraordinary as soloists and nothing but miraculous as an ensemble, playing their daunting repertory with warm hearts and cool heads .
Impeccably produced and engineered by Paul Zinman, with Louis Levitt as Executive Producer, and with the support of New Music USA, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, Sybarite Chamber Players Ltd, Bright Shiny Things and many Kickstarter supporters, OUTLIERS is an indispensable addition to the library of any collector of contemporary music.
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com December 18, 2017