John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Flow my teares (1600) [4:15]
If my complaints could passions move (First Book of Songs) (1597) [2:42]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Lachrymae (Reflections on a song of Dowland), Op.48 (1948) [15:28]
Adam PORĘBSKI (b.1990)
ReVerse 2 (2013) [11:52]
Rory BOYLE (b.1951)
Such Sweet Sorrow for solo viola (2009) [7:29]
Gavin HIGGINS (b.1983)
Kathedrale for solo accordion (2013) [6:44]
Toshio HOSOKAWA (b.1955)
In die Tiefe der Zeit (Into the Depths of Time) for viola and accordion (1996) [16:42]
Duo van Vliet (Ian Anderson (viola), Rafał Łuc (accordion))
rec. 2014/5, MAQ Records, Wojkowice, Poland
ORCHID CLASSICS ORC100069 [65:14]
Duo van Vliet sounds like an ascetic ensemble devoted to Flemish music of the fifteenth century and a superficial look at the cover picture of this disc might mislead you into seeing monastic cowls. In fact Don van Vliet was the real name of Captain Beefheart, he of the monstrous voice and rock experiments, and those are no cowls: they’re hoodies. And the duo concerned is the unusual pairing of viola and accordion.
Since the repertoire for this combination is exiguous, arrangements and commissions are necessary. There are three such commissions, by Adam Porębski, Rory Boyle (but this is for solo viola, not duo) and Gavin Higgins (again solo - this is for accordion, not duo). Thus Hosokawa’s Into the Depths of Time, which was originally written for cello, accordion and strings but transcribed by the composer for the viola of Nobuko Imai and the accordion of Mie Miki, is a rare example of writing specifically for the two instruments together.
This is an eminently portable duo, and they start with the logical progression of a transcription of Dowland’s If My Complaints to Britten’s Lachrymae, his series of Reflections on Dowland’s song. Rafał Łuc’s accordion is strongly balanced in the programme so it stands as a fully equal partner and it’s interesting to hear the instrument’s qualities of sustain in the Britten, where Ian Anderson’s pizzicati are particularly striking. Strangely, this transformation of the work rather puts me in mind of the music of Václav Trojan. Porębski’s ReVerse 2 was composed in 2013 and involves some glowering exchanges, as well as drowsy episodes, and rhythmically brusque detailing. Boyle describes Such Sweet Sorrow as ‘a realisation of Giles Farnaby’s Loth to Depart – which amplifies the Elizabethan strain in the album but also aligns it with the Britten, and it’s a thoughtful, sensitive setting excellently realised by its dedicatee.
Gavin Higgins’s Kathedrale is sonically attractive piece, full of dynamic gradients, contours and colour, inspired by a large–scale photograph by Andreas Gursky; its stillness and sense of suspension is particularly fine. The vaporous linearity of the Hosokawa piece contrasts the maleness of the viola with the femaleness of the accordion and the result is nearly 17-minutes long. The composer cites several painterly analogues in the booklet notes; Turner, Rothko and Japanese Buddhist paintings, which is certainly casting one’s cumulus widely.
Much of the music here is meditative, counterbalanced by some more strenuous examples of modernism. The Duo promises more rigorously up-to-date music in its albums to come, so we have been warned.