Scordatura: an "excellently sequenced and performed disc"

Another excellent review for Hannah Addario-Berry's Scordatura!

This article originally appeared in Issue 40:2 (Nov/Dec 2016) of Fanfare Magazine.

SCORDATURA • Hannah Addario-Berry (vc) • AEROCADE 004 (77:09)

KODÁLY Sonata for Solo Cello, op. 8. B. MILLER Miniatures, Book 3: Koans. A. ROSE Lands End. E. CLARK Ekpyrotic: Layerings IV. JUSTEN Sonaquifer. COONS Myth’s Daughter. LIU Calor

The fourth release on the recently founded Aerocade label takes a page from ECM’s book in that it presents a historical dialogue between Zoltan Kodaly and a group of contemporary composers reacting to his sonata for solo cello, whose centenary was in 2015. If not directly influenced by Kodály, the same scordatura (altering the tuning of a stringed instrument) is used by the other composers. Cellist Hannah Addario-Berry performs the Kodaly sonata first and then the other sets of pieces, creating a well-formed and evocative program. While her rendering of the sonata faces stiff competition, Addario-Berry makes an especially fine contribution with the middle movement; she clearly identifies with its wildly diverse mystery and multilayered pathos, beautifully shaping each phrase and perfectly timing each silence. I was especially impressed with the passages that combine arco and pizzicato, as she manages a real sense of interaction.

“The great way is gateless, approached in a thousand ways,” intones the cellist, commencing Brent Miller’s excellent and equally diverse third book of miniatures, and this pithy aphorism perfectly encapsulates both the preceding sonata and the rest of the disc.  As with Varèse’ America transforming into “Ameriques,” the notions of area, landscape, temporal experience and chronology are deconstructed, or maybe it’s better to say reconstructed. On the geographical plain, we have Alisa Rose’s “Land’s End,” which uses reminiscences of American tunes and physical proportions to transmit the experience of walking the Land’s End trail in San Francisco. In more metaphysical territory is Gloria Justen’s “Sonaquifer – Flowing, Turning Dance,” a study in what might be called collective memory, combining elements of baroque figuration with the brief syncopations of Kodály over a rapidly changing often post-romantic harmonic background.

These are not the direct and hyperconscious interpolations, say, of Holger Czukay; they are subtle, often ephemeral and difficult to remember on first listen. Even when we know the source immediately, as in Lisa Renée Coons’ “Myth’s Daughter,” context is both paramount and elusive. Addario-Berry negotiates the various and often thorny terrain with ease, both as vocalist and cellist. In the end, the Kodály is exposed as the trans-geographical, dialectical and micro-historical document it is, thanks to an excellently sequenced and performed disc. Marc Medwin