Zentripetal: A New-Music “Dynamic Duo”

Review by: Jed Distler

71tLmGPGehL._SL1500

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Those who think that the violin/cello duo repertoire begins and ends with Ravel and Kodály should investigate the debut release by Zentripetal, an adventurous and (pardon the cliché) “dynamic duo” made up of violinist Lynn Bechtold and cellist Jennifer DeVore. Its opening salvo, Dan Cooper’s Design Duo, features lyrical jazzy melodic lines accompanied by pizzicatos on both instruments. I enjoy its airy textures and conversational fluidity. Villa-Lobos’ Deux Chôros sound as if they could have been composed in 2014, even though they date from 1929. The players nail the second piece’s difficult sustained double stops and characterize the writing in extreme registers to near perfection.

Gene Pritsker’s Clubbin’ is a brief, freewheeling, hip-hop-influenced gem, while Lei Liang’s brooding and arguably overlong Gobi Canticle contains evocative pitch bending and tonal inflections that relate to Asian string instruments. A delicate post-minimalist canvas emerges as Milica Paranosic blends high-lying string passages with electronic sounds that resemble processed wind chimes and cymbals. By contrast, Alvin Lucier’s Violynn focuses on sustained single notes from both an electronic source and a solo violin. When the latter plays a note pizzicato, the electronic note slowly changes character. On the surface Lucier’s sparse aesthetic makes Morton Feldman sound garrulous by comparison, yet he handles his material with a frightening degree of concentration and specificity.

For her solo track, DeVore doesn’t just perform Schnittke’s austere Klingende Buchstaben, she inhabits it with suave phrasing, impeccable intonation, and effortless control of the exposed writing above the staff. Bechtold’s own Duo Die also incorporates electronics, extended techniques, and intriguing timbral manipulations. The disc concludes with an extended “remix” of the Pritsker piece, complete with DJ beats, loops, sound effects, and other laptop paraphernalia. It works, but the earlier “unremixed” version proves that less is more. While program notes would have been helpful, the music still speaks for itself, and so does the excellent, carefully balanced engineering from selection to selection. A provocative and invigorating disc, highly recommended.



Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Album Title: Zentripetal

Works by Dan Cooper, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Gene Pritsker, Lei Liang, Milica Paranosic, Albin Lucier, Alfred Schnittke, & Lynn Bechtold


    Zentripetal (Lynn Bechtold, violin; Jennifer DeVore, cello)


Share This Review: