Jane Antonia Cornish: Duende
The music of Jane Antonia Cornish contains powerful extremes. The three works on this album – Duende, In Luce, and Clair-Obscur – evoke archetypal themes of light and darkness, themes that are explored by chamber music ensembles: a piano trio, a string quartet, and violin and piano.
A haunting and meditative sound world imbues the evocative piano trio Duende. From sublime and delicate tranquility to deft musical abandon, the work’s multi-dimensional trajectory is encapsulated in an overall arc of structural, harmonic, and philosophical unity. The title is borrowed from the work’s literary inspiration: Federico García Lorca’s prose collection In Search of Duende, and is suggestive of the Spanish writer’s use of the concept of duende as a metaphor for the search of artistic essence through the trinity of the poet, muse and angel. Lorca writes “Everything that has black sounds in it, has duende.” Oscillating between moments of contemplative stasis and intricate rhythmic freneticism, Duende embraces a complex rhythmic and melodic profile that unfolds over the course of its four movements.
An expanse of solitary isolation permeates the three-movement string quartet In Luce (Into the Light). Glimpses of slivered light endeavor to be seen through a fractured and desperate tableau that is nearly void of consolation. The sui generis orchestration favors solo lines and instruments in pairs, as the prevailing textures invariably seem to admonish any inclination towards a typical amalgamation of voices. A ritornello in the lower strings, which appears throughout all three movements of the work, announces the quartet’s structure both emotionally and architecturally. An ominous knell, the ritornello often terminates the continuously reaching motives of the violins in their inexhaustible crusade towards light. The work concludes, unresolved and abruptly, leaving the listener wonderstruck, as if floating over a boundless abyss.
The violin and piano work Clair-Obscur favors resonance and breadth of space. This is accomplished over the course of three movements through an ever–increasing urgency, which is expressed through evolving and contrasting sections of contemplation and virtuosic abandon. Like its emblematic counterpart in the visual arts –chiaroscuro– interplay of light and darkness is both an aesthetic feature and dominant theme of Clair-Obscur. The juxtaposition of impassioned contrasts between the luminous and the enigmatic, championed by Caravaggio, constitutes the essence of this aesthetic; this applies equally to Clair-Obscur, where light and darkness contrast with dramatic effect.
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