Welcome to an intimate gathering of friends: Josefien, Jean…and now you. Together the three of you will navigate a fascinating journey through some rare and exotic musical landscapes and meet some new friends along the way. If you don’t know what to expect, it’s not a surprise. Not much in the way of works for soprano and cello duo has been recorded, or even composed. But here you will find a refreshingly modern sound with captivating music that is powerful and cathartic, none of which has been commercially recorded or released.
Why “Modern Muses”? This is certainly a modern recording. Completed in 2021, the collection’s oldest works were written in 1987, and several of them are from the past few years. Muses derive from Greek and Roman mythology, and you will find ancient and mythological themes among these works. These were goddesses who inspired, and a number of the works here are composed by women or taken from the perspective of a woman—the two female performers have been the catalyst in several of these works as well. Your takeaway: music on universal themes and human experiences, told with a modern voice in an intimate instrumentation.
A broad palette of expression awaits your ears. The journey includes works of secret sensuality, like Bacon’s Alba, a medieval song set in the Occitan language about clandestine lovers who meet in the night and have to flee at the break of dawn, and like Ayres’s Moon Sister, a crystalline setting of a translation/interpretation of Sappho’s translucent imagery. Tremain’s two Blake songs, Ah! Sunflower and The Sick Rose, project a sense of melancholy upon his floral subjects. With Ionic (Stoppelenburg / Cavafy) we feel the nostalgia of the ancient Greek gods for their golden age. There are also some dark passages on this journey: Stoppelenburg’s Olga and Bibalo’s Il Lamento di Fedra both portray women driven to and beyond the brink of sanity, while Hatmaker’s ahimsa for solo cello treats the internal struggle to be good, both to yourself and others. The mood lightens with Wolf’s setting of William Carlos Williams’s This Is Just to Say, and is filled with awe in Garrop’s depiction of Paul Dunbar’s Dawn. The recording ends with two works that radiate tenderness: after an initial stormy introduction, Dudney’s Vocalise oozes warmth, and Cuello Piraquibis’s Canción de Cuna sends us off with a lullaby.
— Ted Hatmaker