Baba Yaga, Fantasia for Violin and Orchestra.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Quinta Del Sordo.
Isles of Shoals
Ira Levin, cond;
Ransom Wilson, cond;
Anastasia Khitruk (vn);
Łukasz Długosz (fl); London SO
FLEUR DE SON 58018 (69:56)
My colleague David Deboor Canfield gave a broad introduction to North Carolina-born composer Michael Dalmau Colina in
35:2. Colina is a producer, engineer, writer, and composer whose music is highly influenced by the Latin music of Cuba (his father was Cuban). Think Rimsky-Korsakov’s
for the fantasia for violin and orchestra
. Colina’s mode of expression is unashamedly tonally based, with long expressive lines firmly rooted in the romantic tradition. No complaints about the soloist, Anastasia Khitruk, who plays with sterling dedication. Her cadenza in the first movement, “Vasalisa,” is arguably gripping more for her violinistic grit than for the musical material she delivers (the story of Baba Yaga is included in the booklet notes). The more playful, dance-like “Hut with Chicken Legs” uses folkish materials to render atmosphere, and it is fairly clear that the London Symphony is enjoying itself. The recording, too, is superb (the soloist is close but not in-your-face). It is all great fun, verging sometimes too close to film music perhaps, but finely scored and offering plenty of opportunities for abandon from the players.
Composed as a tribute to his father (who died in 2009), Colina’s poignant response to the Kundera novel
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
(from which the piece takes its name) brings equally poignant playing from the LSO’s luminous string section (the Abbey Road Studios do the players more justice than their home venue, the Barbican Concert Hall). Lines intertwine towards an intense climax leading to a sweet (but not saccharine), high-registered coda. No indication as to who takes the solo lines, but they are all tremendously well played. There is even a hint of Vaughan Williams’s luminescence about the close. A nod to the composer’s Spanish-Cuban background, the dark, swaying rhythms of the symphonic poem
Quinta del Sordo
(Deaf Man’s Villa) depict the art of Goya, whose “Black Paintings” are inextricably linked to the painter’s last home. The scoring itself is ingenious and confident, and beautifully realized here by the London Symphony.
Finally, a flute concerto entitled
Isles of Shoals
which dates from 2004. The title comes from the island of Appleton (the largest of the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire), which had harbored America’s first artists’ colony (from about 1850 to 1895). Famous names associated with the colony are Ignace Paderewski, composer Edward MacDowell, and author Helen Keller. The colony was brought to an end by a fire in 1912. Colina writes that he was “haunted by the fragility of the Isle of Shoal’s memory, art, vision, and humanity and attempted to capture its reverberations in the music”. The music pits an Impressionistic, tissue-thin beauty against more energetic music that perhaps represents more elemental forces. The central movement, “Sheep may safely graze” makes obvious reference to Bach’s famous chorale, taking it into decidedly U.S. pastoral territory. The finale is a “danze macabre,” active and piquant in its harmonies. Łukasz Długosz is a fine and nimble flutist who clearly strives to do the score justice. The LSO’s finely honed responses ensure an exciting ride. Recommended.