It's during the months of High Summer that I find time to listen to music at home. The rest of the year is taken up with live music, and with writing (and reading!) about it. But on these long, hot August afternoons, I am in my cool cavern of a room with CDs playing.
I have a huge stack of music yet to be listened to - and even larger stacks of un-read books - but one disc that I'd been really looking to hearing was my focus yesterday: a recording by cellist David Finckel of Antonín Dvořák's cello concerto, paired with Augusta Read Thomas's 1999 work, Ritual Incantations, and featuring the Taipei Symphony Orchestra conducted by Felix Chiu-Sen Chen. The disc - on the Artist Led label - may be purchased here.
The familiar Dvořák is - needless to say - beautifully played, and the concerto sounded wonderfully fresh to me. It's the Thomas that I am savouring now, being of a type of music that is particularly appealing to me. David Finckel premiered Ritual Incantations at Aspen in 1999.
In March 2015, Augusta Read Thomas was the subject of one of The Miller Theatre's Composer Portraits. My friend Monica and I were drawn into Ms. Thomas's musical world, as well as much taken with her as a personality.
Ritual Incantations opens with solo cello in a fanfare-like summons, followed by a mystical, plaintive passage which Mr. Finckel plays gorgeously. Bells of varying textures are heard in an animated section before the cello takes up a soulful solo; incantatory chimes summon us as to prayer, and the harp lends a feeling of enchantment. Wind voices and cello converse, taking Mr. Finckel's voice to the depths.
The music turns lively, urgent and emphatic. There are jabs and sudden bursts from various instruments, and then again the cello sings longingly, rising upwards. A glassy shimmer ends the work abruptly. The other-worldly aspects of the music evoke uncharted distances whilst the passionate beauty of the cello writing wraps itself around the soul. I can't stop listening to it.