…thank goodness Claude found these three women because we get the spoils of their encounter.
Poetry in Motion
Fire Pink Trio, Debra Reuter-Pivetta, flute; Sheila Browne, viola; Jacquelyn Bartlett, harp; MSR Classics, 2015.
Did Debussy create the perfect ensemble when writing his flute, viola, and harp sonata? Or is stretching and cajoling to make music work for this unlikely trio more a product of just how fun it is to play the Debussy together?
In the case of Fire Pink Trio, it would seem the answer is yes to both questions. Harpist Jacquelyn Bartlett says it was Debussy’s fault entirely for “putting together the three sexiest instruments,” and the moment these three sat down to play Debussy, it was love at first hearing—or this reviewer, too.
I was nervous at first to find that Poetry in Motion opens with a modern experimental work. Written by living composer Adrienne Albert, “Doppler Effect” draws inspiration from the acoustic phenomenon of the same name. But its forward movement takes us to a time past of trains moving in the distance against a warm background of ripe fields at the gloaming. Though Albert speaks of the craziness of dense traffic, there is a calming effect in the tumbling lines played with exacting blend and sonorous color. It’s a chaos I want to be smack in the middle of.
Dream Steps–A Dance Suite is up next, and it only makes sense next to begin a set of dances with a rhapsodic dream that gives way briefly to a nightmare, but only briefly as if a bright red streak entered the scene. The ensemble has a wide range of expression from the softest, feathery touch to a jagged, restless forte that is never strident but remains a pastel-ish Debussy shade. It is not often I hear jazzy rhythms played loosely and liberated by classical musicians. It somehow feels that with a goal to be correct or “authentic,” things feel exaggerated and overly thought out. Fire Pink plays off the beat, like a badminton player coaxing the shuttlecock over the net, hitting square on, but with just the right pressure to send it soaring with perfect aim. The blues, too, has just the right measure of indolence and sass.
Suite Populaire Espanola by Spanish composer Manuel Moreno-Buendia is a wonderful find, the flavor spicy and rich, like that hearty chorizo and bean stew I had one time. The castanets were cleverly “played” by the viola in Fabada Asturiana. Suffice it to say, Fire Pink offers up this delicacy in a whole new language that’s saturated with deep color. It’s impressive to catch in a recording a change of timbre this way. I am impressed.
Breezy and joyous is the closing gem, Sonny Burnett’s “Cruisin’ with the Top Down.” This one is worth the price of the disc and then some.
And why, you ask, has your reviewer not yet critiqued the Debussy Trio? After all, it’s where things began. Yes. Good. Lovely. Dark and haunting, as if heard for the first time. I’m not sure I need yet another Debussy on record, but let me say this: thank goodness Claude found these three women because we get the spoils of their encounter. •