Posts tagged Scordatura
Another review for Scordatura and "Addario-Berry’s superb virtuosity"

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

Kodály’s Sonata for Solo Cello dates from 1915. An early twentieth century answer to Bach’s music for unaccompanied cello, it shows the influences of Claude Debussy and Béla Bartók had on him. This sonata also shows the way he used the native Hungarian folk music that he and Bartók loved to work into their pieces. Over a hundred years later on this recording, the solo cello sonata becomes a base that undergirds the varied styles employed by twenty-first century composers of music for the solo cello. The recording is called Scordatura because all of the featured works use the same altered tuning required by Kodály in his solo cello sonata.  Kodály’s music requires the cellist to cover the instrument’s entire range from the highest delicate tones to the strongest bass notes, so this fine rendition of his solo cello sonata gives the listener an idea of Hannah Addario-Berry’s superb virtuosity. Janos Starker, who actually played the Kodaly sonata for its composer, recorded it for Delos in 1992. That is the most definitive recording but, because of technological improvements over the years, not necessarily the easiest one to enjoy. I would suggest owning the Starker for study and the Addario-Berry for simple enjoyment.

Hannah Addario-Berry commissioned each of the six widely varying new works heard on this disc. Composer Brent Miller, managing director of The Center for New Music in San Francisco, describes “koans” in Book 3 of his Miniatures. Koans are stories, dialogues, questions, or statements used in Zen practice to test students’ progress. Miller scores the piece for cello, voice and dice. The text is from The Gateless Gate, a collection of Zen koans and commentary compiled by Chinese Zen master Wumen Huikai.

Alisa Rose’s Lands End is a musical hike along Northern California’s Lands End Trail that leaves city and suburbs for the untamed nature of a dirt trail that skirts the Pacific Ocean. Rose’s rhythmic fiddling has an old time feeling because she uses open strings as drones and drums. Violinist Eric Kenneth Malcolm Clark specializes in new and experimental music. His Ekpyrotic Layerings IV for Solo Cello and Tape requires the cellist not only to change the tuning of the strings but also to place pins on them that give them bell-like tones. The result is a fascinating romp through inventive composition. Gloria Justen’s Sonaquifer makes my mind see a dance of celebration when dusty travelers find a source of clean drinking water for humans and animals in the middle of California’s broiling desert.

If you remember a parent reading a fairy tale to you, Myth’s Daughter will whisper sweet sonorities in your welcoming ears.  Step into the musical garden and it will hold you in its thrall.

Addario-Berry’s final work for this performance is Jerry Liu’s Calor, which is Spanish for heat. Here the cellist mesmerizes the listener with hot rhythms and shows us the beauty of an unrestrained sun. The pristine sound on this Aerocade recording allows cello, voice and percussive sounds to be heard as clearly as if the listener was in a well built recital hall. I enjoyed the variety of compositions Addario-Berry commissioned and hope she will continue to help talented composers get their cello music in front of the public. Maria Nockin

"Cellist Hannah Addario-Berry is clearly an adventuresome spirit"

Another thoughtful 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

This disc marks the first chapter of an ongoing project that couples Kodály’s 1915 Sonata for Solo Cello with contemporary works. The six other works here are all directly inspired by Kodály’s masterpiece and were all written for the present cellist.

San Francisco Bay Area-based Canadian cellist Hannah Addario-Berry is clearly an adventuresome spirit, and this is a most enlightened way to hear an established masterpiece in a new light. The title of the disc, Scordatura, refers to the practice of deliberately altering the tuning on a stringed instrument (as Kodály does here). The cello in this piece has the two lower strings lowered by a half-step, which in itself offers a whole shedload of new harmonics to the instrument. Addario-Berry’s idea is to create a repertoire of music for scordatura cello.

The Kodály comes up against quite come competition, including Queyras on Harmonia Mundi (Fanfare 26:1) and the fine, ever-impassioned Alban Gerhardt on Oehms Classics (the latter a sensible coupling with a Bach unaccompanied Cello Suite and one by Britten.) Yet Addario-Berry holds her own in this huge, nearly 40-minute piece, her plangent tone in the first movement highly effective. Her tuning, too, is impeccable, even in those testing, ultra-high passages. But it is in the desperate loneliness of the Adagio (con gran espressione) that Addario-Berry triumphs; the spread pizzicatos over a pedal bass carry huge emotional weight. The finale has huge energy, and there is a feeling of manic dance over some of the higher-pitched sections.

All of the remaining pieces on the disc are World Premieres. It is the scoring of Brent Miller’s 2015 piece “Koans” from Miniatures, Book 3 that intrigues and entices: it is for cello, voice and dice. Unfortunately, the role of the dice is not explored in the booklet note, but we do hear them being thrown at one point so one assumes they determine something about the performance; but we do get to hear some text from The Gateless Gate, a collection of koans compiled by the 13th century Chinese Zen master Wumen Huikai. Addario-Berry’s voice is deliberately slightly recessed at the opening, but turn her up at your peril, as the entrance of the cello is mightily close. Miller’s writing is terrifically expressive, with some gorgeous glissando harmonics; but there are some grating dissonances there, too.

For Lands End (2015), composer Alisa Rose took the topography of a section of the trail from San Francisco’s Lands End Trail that leaves from the city and crosses cliffs, descending down to a rocky beach. The technique is therefore presumably analogous to that used by Villa-Lobos on mountain contours to develop material for his music (try that composer’s Symphony No. 6, “On the Outline of Mountains in Brazil.”) The use of old fiddle bowing techniques by Rose is aurally obvious and works well in highlighting the resonant feel of the tuning used; the rhythms provide the impression of optimistic forward movement.

Eric Kenneth Malcom Clark has composed a series of pieces under the umbrella title of Layerings, each of which asks the soloist to record material several times (including singing), with the inevitable small differences resulting in overlappings. The composer also asks for miniature clothes pins on the strings in this piece, Ekpyrotic (2015); the result is something like a gamelan. Interestingly, the piece Sonaquifer by Gloria Justen of 2015 calls forth memories of the composer of earlier music, including Bach, Bartók and, topically, Kodály. The playful nature of the musical lines is perfectly caught by Addario-Berry, and the piece flows magnificently with a sort of artless grace (the composer actually refers to it as a “flowing, turning dance”.) It would be a perfect encore.

Scored for “cello and projected video,” Myth’s Daughter (2015) by Lisa Renée Coons has Addario-Berry reading fragments from Grimm Fairy Tales. Both and YouTube will furnish the video, which concentrates on the innocence of a child. In performance terms, this is a tour de force, always entertaining; Addario-Berry’s rich, expressive tone tells its own story in conjunction with the text.  Finally, Jerry Liu’s Calor (2015), an adventuresome piece that examines the concept of heat (“calor” is Latin for heat) in terms of flickering flames, smoulderings and “fiery momentum.” The score includes some measures without meter to give some level of freedom to the performer. The close recording only emphasizes the (pardon the incoming pun) scorching intensity of of the performance.

The disc can be further explored (and purchased) at There also is a fascinating recorded interview with Addario-Berry around this disc at A very varied recital. Well worth investigating.  Colin Clarke

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

Fanfare Magazine reviews 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

Canadian cellist Hannah Addario-Berry, now working in the San Francisco area, has put together a stunning program for the solo cello, celebrating the centennial of Zoltán Kodály’s milestone Cello Sonata, op. 8. Scordatura, the title of the release, denotes the retuning of a stringed instrument to change its character and tonality. Kodály requires, in his sonata, the G- and C-strings to be tuned a half-step lower, so that the open strings sound a B-Minor seventh chord. This facilitates the shifting B Minor/B Major tonality of the work—including the use of open-string drones—increases the resonance in those keys, and emphasizes the darker timbres of the instrument. Inspired by these qualities, Addario-Berry commissioned 10 friends—“dynamic young composers”—to create new works for the identically tuned solo cello, to be performed with the Kodály. Working on a short timeline, six finished the works in time for inclusion here and in ongoing tours. Composing to complement one of the greatest works for any solo instrument was no doubt daunting. All wisely avoided producing works that invite direct comparison, opting instead for contrasting, occasionally very modern, works.

Listeners familiar with János Starker’s final recording of the Kodály Sonata (1970, Delos) and the first recording by Miklós Perényi (Hungaroton), another Kodály protégé, will find Addario-Berry’s approach quite different. It is more improvisatory in approach, more monumental—her term in promotional material—and considerably more measured, running, at 34:50, a full four minutes longer than either. The soloist doesn’t slight the Hungarian folk qualities, and maybe even enhances them, while making much of the expressive opportunities that a slower tempo affords, so that the sonata, especially the central Adagio, takes on the nature of a dark lamentation. It is not out of character, even if it perhaps goes beyond what the composer envisioned. The arpeggiated chord work in the Allegro molto vivace, which Starker objected to and cut in all but his last recording, is here made intensely effective, and other figures, which go by very quickly at the marked tempo, are allowed to more fully register at Addario-Berry’s freer tempos. Of course, Kodály declared a Starker performance of the sonata just short of “the Bible performance” because of an unscored ritard in the third movement. Heaven knows what he would think of this reading, but I must say—despite my usual respect for composers’ preferences—that it is immensely satisfying.

Such is my enthusiasm for the Kodály, I’m afraid I’ve left little room for comment on the other six works. It is an eclectic lot in style, but all are essentially tonal. Possibly because she is good at it, two involve reading by the soloist, between and sometimes during the music. In Miniatures, Book Three: Koans, Brent Miller incorporates Zen meditation statements, on which the music reflects in the styles that evoke several of the composer’s influences: Ligeti, Schnittke, Crumb, Tenney, Xenakis, and Pärt. In Myth’s Daughter, Lisa Renée Coons lifts phrases from familiar Grimm’s fairytales nostalgically recalled from her youth, which the soloist states, whispers, and sings as a sort of enhanced narrative in time to the music. Alisa Rose finds inspiration in the topography of a San Francisco trail for the contours of Lands End, and in Appalachian fiddle bowing to establish its essential bluegrass personality. Gloria Justen’s vivacious Sonaquifer is more Eastern European, with gestures from the Bach Suites providing contrasting ideas. Rock music seems to be the starting point for Calor by cellist/composer Jerry Liu, as he experiments with indeterminacy by eliminating note values and meter.

Eric Kenneth Malcolm Clark’s Ekpyrotic: Layerings IV, is, however, the only truly experimental composition. He uses overlapping multiple takes of the same music to create musical complexity out of inevitable variations, as the soloist plays a prepared cello—miniature clothespins on the strings to create a bell-like ringing—and vocalizes. (I have only a vague sense of what this all might have to do with ekpurosis, or the ekpyrotic universe model.) This is a short four-minute version of the work. A longer version, at over 11 minutes, can be downloaded after purchase of the release.

Recommendation, then? Absolutely: The outstanding Kodály Sonata performance alone would be reason enough to purchase this CD. The new works add plenty of creative and agreeable music to be explored, and Addario-Berry’s performances rivet attention. The recording emphasizes the rich lower range of the cello, and is attractively clear and rather close in a resonant space. Notes are succinct, but are expanded upon at and a linked Bandcamp download page. Ronald E. Grames

Scordatura review in

Stephen Smoliar at reviewed Hannah Addario-Berry's new album, Scordatura:

"Addario-Berry has mastered the art of getting every note to speak to the attentive listener. Her name may not be familiar to listeners who think that they have already decided on a favorite cellist, but the freshness of her approach to the Opus 8 sonata not only deserves but also demands attention from anyone interested in this piece."

Read the rest at