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Reviewers: Tony Augarde, Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Getting Home (I must be…)

Yann’s Flight

Pop Rocks

Hitchhiker’s Tales: Black Bend; Dixie Twang; Pedal to the Metal



Allemande pour tout le monde

Kompa for Toussaint


Blue Bourée


Sybarite5; Laura Metcalf (cello): Louis Levitt (bass): Angela Pickett (viola): Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney (violins)


Sybarite5 is the group that puts the swing into the string quintet and Outliers is a compilation disc documenting the last decade or so since its formation in 2006. It has commissioned around 60 new works in that time and devotes most of its time to bringing new American works to the concert stage. Each of the composers selected has been one with whom the group has worked closely so that one can be as certain as possible that Jessica Meyer, Shawn Conley, Eric Byers, Dan Visconti, Andy Akiho, Mohammed Fairouz, Kenji Bunch, Daniel Bernard Roumain, Michi Wiancko and Ljova will be well satisfied with the idiomatic performances to be heard here.

There are thematic inter-relations throughout the disc. Meyer’s Getting Home (I must be…) was written during a plane flight, its forthright riffs and increasing momentum contrasting nicely with Conley’s Yenn’s Flight, another aerial conceit but this time of Piazzollan cast, sinuous, dance-like and drenched in warmth. Byer’s Pop Rocks shows the vitality of counterpoint in this string medium, with the bass adding rich downward sonority.

Dan Visconti’s three-movement, suite-like Hitchhiker’s Tales offers another essay in travel and in stylistic variety, moving from the blues-saturated back porch to the country vernacular of banjo-like pizzicati and finally a more pop-centred purposefulness. Athleticism and rhythmic dynamism are pretty much constants throughout, not least in Andy Akiho’s pulsing Revolve, but there is time and space to explore the more horizontal beauties of the medium, as in Fairouz’s Muqqadamah, an extended and expressive Andante of much reflective breadth. Kenji Bunch’s off-kilter and quixoticAllemande pour tout le monde sits next to Roumain’s Kompa for Toussaint and its terpsichorean vitality which alternates with a more long-breathed legato passage. Byers is the only composer to be represented by two pieces and Sarabande is a resonant and expressive elegy whilst the Baroque-seeming title of this, the earlier Allemande and Michi Wiancko’s Blue Bourée points to a slightly whimsical custodianship of Classical nomenclature. The final piece, Ljova’s Gi-gue-ly, whilst again alluding to the Baroque, instead strikes out in Irish folkloric directions.

This is an engaging portfolio of Sybarite5’s recordings, a compilation that reflects well on their instrumental finesse, corporate understanding and expansion of the contemporary repertoire.

Jonathan Woolf


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