Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Carr-Petrova Duo’s Refugee-Inspired Debut Album

from the Web page for the album being discussed

The Carr-Petrova Duo brings violist Molly Carr together with pianist Anna Petrova. They began playing together as students at both the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music. In August of 2018 they became involved in the non-profit organization Project: Music Heals Us and launched an interdisciplinary project called the Novel Voices Refugee Aid. Their debut album Novel Voices is named after this project and is scheduled for release this Friday. As of this writing, the best place to arrange for pre-ordering is through the Web page for the album created on the duo’s Web site.

The album is also named after its final selection, which is being given its world premiere recording. Written by Mexican composer Fernando Arroyo Lascurain, “Novel Voices” is a three-movement “tune without words” that reflects on encounters with children in refugee camps. The titles of the movements are “Stories and Dreams,” “Dance of Uncertainty,” and “Call and Prayer;” and they reflect the stories at the different camps visited by both the performers and the composer.

The other selections are somewhat variable as reflections on the album’s title. The first selection is the “Lullaby” movement from Aram Khachaturian’s score for the four-act ballet Gayane, a narrative about an Armenian “woman warrior,” which was first performed by the Kirov Ballet in December of 1942. Carr and Petrova prepared their own arrangement of Khachaturian’s music. They also play a sonata by Mieczysław Weinberg that reflects on his flight from Poland to the Soviet Union in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of his country of birth. This Opus 28 clarinet sonata, composed in 1945, was arranged for viola by Julia Rebekka Adler, making it much earlier that the solo viola sonatas discussed on this site last month.

The remaining selection is probably one of the best-known viola sonatas from the twentieth century, composed by Rebecca Clarke for a composition competition sponsored by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. There was a fair amount of push-back by those that believed that such extensive and progressive music could not possibly have been composed by a woman. Back when she was on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, violist Jodi Levitz championed this piece, consistently giving it an introduction in the form of a wry reflection on male opinions of female composers.

All the selections on this album are given perfectly acceptable accounts. Whether or not they are interpretations that will engage the curious listener is another matter. This is not to suggest a lack of expressiveness on the part of either Carr or Petrova. Rather, I tend to react cautiously to music that is presented in a context of social issues when it is perfectly capable of standing on its own in a recital setting. On the other hand the duo is certainly worthy of attention; and, if politicization serves to draw that attention, then perhaps they are working with a valid strategy.

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