Saturday, September 20, 2003


Artists: Duo46
Title: Untaming The Fury
Composers: Lanman, Daniel Adams, Richards, McGarity, Schaefer, Jalbert, Penaman, Flory, Sarre, Garrop.
Label: Summit Records
Catalogue: DCD 346
Annus: 2002

As if to prove that the revived American interest in classical tonality is not simply the reduction of artistic possibility to a 'good chune', Duo 46 (Matt Gould - gtr; Beth Ilana Schneider- vl) tear hugely imaginative patches from the tonal repertoire of the past few centuries, studied and vernacular. Not that they are without their hooks and riffs, too.

Ten composers responded to commissions for a series of demanding chamber miniatures. The result is hugely varied -- from sunny Iberia to melancholic central Europe -- and rarely short of compelling. The scores are all available through Alfieri e Ranieri Publishing.

The temptation in this context is throw as many ideas into a small ring as possible, both for writer and performer. Occasionally these pieces succumb to that temptation. But they can also be profoundly developmental and contemplative at the same time (Russell Sarre).

Gould and Schneider are musicians of rare sensitivity, unforced reflexivity and effortless virtuosity, coaxing unexpected twists and twirls from the Mikhail Robert guitar (1999) and the Alceste Bulfari violin (1985). These performances have a paradoxically controlled yet 'near live feel'. The recording and mastering allows the different accents and colours to flood through. You easily forget that you are listening to just two varieties of wood and string.

Some of the compositions on this disc betray their origins, loves and influences with declamatory force. Others (Joshua Penman's 'Was The Sky As Liquid') reinterpret them with surprising subtlety -- drum'n'bass and Baroque harmony, curiously interwoven.

Duo 46 is all about breaking boundaries - emotional, harmonic, rhythmic, and textural. But there is nothing contrived or forcedly 'transgressive' about either their playing or what they play. 'Untaming The Fury' is ensemble music for grown ups who like to dabble and frolic, but not in a dilettantish fashion. At its heart is perception; a still centre.

And incidentally: if you've ever wondered what a Venn Diagram would sound like, Neil Flory has the answer pinned down in just 7 minutes -- an overflowing circumference of dreams.

On the title track (by Stacy Garrop) the acoustic suddenly flattens. The notes indicate a 9/11 connection. The buck stops here. Each piece is introduced by a pithy liner comment; just enough to leave the ears to do the most important work. Professor William S. Haney's paean of praise lends floridity a new gear -- but you can see his point. The sunny cover is tastefully restrained (but just as atmospheric), in contrast.

I missed Gould and Schneider's debut album, 'FM1: Homage To The Fifties'. Seeking it out is now a clear priority. The duo also works in other contexts (the None and Strung Out Trios, for example) and has performed on four continents. 'Untaming The Fury' encapsulates their art in just over an hour. In their end is their beginning... I shall return to this disc often, I am sure.

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