andPlay — Playlist
(New Focus Recordings FCR233, 2019, CD / DL)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2020-11-01
andPlay is the neoclassical avant-garde violin / viola duo of Maya Bennardo and Hannah Levinson. Both have taught music at the university level and have advanced degrees. In 2019 they released their debut album Playlist, a collection of four instrumentals by four different composers. The avant-garde nature of the music (scraping strings and bridges, banging instruments, glissandos, etc.) must be extremely challenging to perform, especially when the music is outside the confines of familiar time signatures and scales. The opening piece is Ashkan Behzadi’s “Crescita Plastica,” a long frenzied duel of glissando notes soaring out of hearing range, short sonic bursts, scrapings, and quiet interludes. The musical score itself must be very strange to view and interpret. No scratch, sputter, swell, or simple note is played without intention. On the second track, a performance of David Bird’s “Bezier,” andPlay sound like they have completely untethered themselves as they perform this unhinged and insane composition of chirps, chittering strings, scraping, banging, and violin playing. I simply cannot imagine what impact performing works like this have on the instruments. Track three, Clara Iannotta’s “Limun,” continues the adventure with note clusters, skidding bows, and fluttering harmonies interspersed with silence. The album closes with David Bird’s 16-minute “Apocrypha.” This piece is a bit more approachable with long sustained notes, reminding me of Ligeti and Stanley Kubrick’s score for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Listening to “Apocrypha” you sense that winter is coming and we are doomed. And just as you think that you have figured this piece out, it builds to a climactic battle of violin and viola strings, drones, scrapes, and gliding sirens. Playlist is a neoclassical release that will appeal to a very narrow audience.
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