Published June 3, 2013
If the notion of sitting through an hour of Baroque music makes you shuffle backwards toward the nearest exit, fear not: Nadia Sirota’s ‘Baroque’ is a rich, contemporary album more reminiscent of the grand scale of Baroque architecture than the scales and chord progressions of Baroque music. Made of adventurous new compositions largely from other members of Reykjavík’s Bedroom Community collective, Sirota entices a staggering timbral variety from the humble viola on her sophomore solo release, overdubbing her parts into a rich string orchestra augmented with synths and occasional percussion.
This is one of those rare albums that can serve as both a “gateway album” into contemporary classical and a deep listening experience for those already into the music. Some passages, such as the main melodic idea in Nico Muhly’s “Étude 3,” could almost become verses in a singer/songwriter tune if they were transcribed for voice and guitar. Other pieces evoke the undulating arpeggios of Philip Glass (“From The Invisible To The Visible”) or the pensive shifts between pointillism and lyricism found in Gorecki’s writing for strings (“Tooth and Nail”).
But my favourite compositions on this album are its last two: “Tristan da Cunha” is an electroacoustic piece that employs a harmonically complex drone in constant evolution against melodies rising and falling from its surface. And Daníel Bjarnason’s “Sleep Variations” merits a review all its own—this longest and most exceptional piece on the album explores almost every extended technique possible on the viola, overdubbed into a dense horizontal vista with equal parts virtuosity and tenderness—a beautiful end to a great album.