Notes and Editorial Reviews
Three States at Play.
Sinfonia No. 1
Artem Kotov (vn);
Rivka Golani (va);
Nic Pendlebury, cond;
New Note Ens
DISCOVERY 102 (53:24)
When Benjamin Ellin first finished his solo violin sonata
Three States at Play
, he was not happy with it. Later, conductor Nic Pendlebury introduced the composer to violinist Artem Kotov, and Ellin eventually revised the piece for him. The result is the exciting work we hear first on this disc. Actually, the first and third movements, marked
Full of Spirit,
provide the excitement. The middle movement,
, gives the listener a few minutes to contemplate the beauties of this music while Ellin tightens a delicious tension that culminates in the final section. Kotov captures the soul of this piece and you can tell it was written for him.
is a work for solo viola and string orchestra named after a famous 1938 painting by Marc Chagall. In his picture the crucified Christ wears a prayer shawl, a symbol of His Judiasm. Instead of the Crucifixion being seen as a means of oppressing the Jews, Chagall uses it to show the suffering of the Jewish people. The painting now at the Art Institute of Chicago can be seen online at artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/59426.
Viola virtuoso Rivka Golani and the New Note Ensemble conducted by Nic Pendlebury present it as a wonderfully wide-ranging tapestry of musical color. There are passages where the viola plays sweet harmonies and tantalizing dissonances together with the orchestra, and the balance on the recording always keeps the viola out in front without it being overbearing. This rendition of the piece makes use of a very wide range of dynamics and the effects are monumental.
Ellin wrote his Sinfonia No. 1 following a vacation in the Cinque Terre area of Italy. That part of the Ligurian coast has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its extraordinary natural beauty. The first movement, “Cinque Terre” (Five Lands), refers to the five villages that make up the site. The coastal landscape and sea beyond it inspired Ellin’s music. The first movement is concerned with views of the mountains experienced on foot and the tastes of the local food and wine. He reserves the second movement, “Catharsis,” for contemplation of the sea and the strong emotions its power can evoke. He intended to write a Tarantella for the finale, retelling the familiar folk tale about a wild dance having the ability to save the life of a person who has been bitten by a tarantula. He was writing in London, however, and he found his work rudely interrupted by that city’s 2011 riots. Having been emotionally caught up in that maelstrom, he used his experience in the finale of the Sinfonia. Instead of a folk dance, the final section, “Insurrection,” brings us the frightening rhythms of a growing mob and what could be the flickering of a Molotov cocktail. He offers us a ray of hope in the conclusion, though, and all his dissonances resolve into a harmonic finish. This is Ellin’s first compact disc and I think it will be a valuable addition to the collection of anyone interested in new music.
FANFARE: Maria Nockin
Works on This Recording
Three States At Play by Benjamin Ellin
Artem Kotov (Violin)
Period: 21st Century
White Crucifixion by Benjamin Ellin
Rivka Golani (Viola)
New Note Ensemble
Period: 21st Century
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