In the newest edition of TRPTK Sessions, a series of 3 track Extended Play (EP) releases, TRPTK brings us Silent City, another fine release from Violinist Merel Vercammen & Cellist Maya Fridman. It is Vercammen’s second album at NativeDSD Music, following her earlier Double Album in DSD “The Zoo”.
Area Reservada calls Silent City “A beautiful musical reflection for this troubled time. Very nice.”
In the EP’s liner notes, Merel Vercammen & Maya Fridman tell us about the album: “Suddenly there was silence. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, one country after the other went into a state of lockdown in the first months of 2020. Everywhere across the globe people were confined to their homes and many had to deal with the loss of loved ones. Concerts were canceled. Just like most musicians, our calendars were suddenly completely empty. Repeatedly, performances we had looked forward to having to be crossed out.
From that compulsory silence, something good had to arise. A beautiful church in the city we live in, the Nicolai church in Utrecht, from which the oldest, Roman parts dated back to the 12th century, provided us with the opportunity to make music again, though without the presence of an audience. Our goal was to create the experience of a concert, witnessed only by a couple of microphones and cameras. We wanted to create a program that would the spirit of the time: on one hand uncertainty, on the other hand, reflection.
The music would also need to fit the remarkable space we found ourselves in. Only a few buildings show so clearly how generations dealt with them like the Nicolai church, an inspiring place where one could also feel tiny in comparison. But once you produce sound within its walls, you immediately feel enveloped. The reverb of the church is vast. The centuries-old walls talk back.
There seemed to be no more fitting piece than Castillo interior (2013) by the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks (1946), a work with a meditative character. It’s not a programmatic piece: Vasks contrived the title only after its completion when he had sequestered himself to a remote area to meditate. The title refers to the book Dwellings of the Interior Castle (Moradas del Castillo Interior) from 1577, the magnum opus of the mystic Theresia of Ávila.
If there should be anything that would fit those times even better, it would have to be ex tempore. On this DSD EP, you will find two improvisations. Or rather, one and a half: a starting-off point for the second improvisation was Bach’s Invention in E minor (BWV 778).”
Merel Vercammen – Violin
Maya Fridman – Cello
Total time: 00:22:35
|Original Recording Format|
Nicolaikerk in Utrecht, The Netherlands on May 15, 2020
Pyramix, Merging Technologies
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||July 24, 2020|
In the early months of 2020, the pandemic closed concert halls and curtailed the work opportunities for professional musicians. In response, violinist Merel Vercammen and cellist Maya Fridman performed a set of three duets, without an audience present, in the hushed environment of the Nicolai Church in Utrecht.
Producer-engineer Brendon Heinst conveys the meditative character of the music, allowing home listeners to imagine we are present with the musicians in the chapel’s spacious acoustic.
The brief program consists of a piece by Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks, “Castillo interior”, and two improvisations, the second of which was based on J.S. Bach’s Invention in E minor. The musicians are clearly in communion with the music, and with each other. “Castillo interior” flows like surging and receding waves through alternating slower and faster passages. “Silent City” builds on the thematic material of a folk-like melody; as the piece develops, listen to the contribution of the ‘third player’ – the chapel walls and towering ceiling.
Extempore variations on Bach celebrates the spirit of invention that runs through all three albums discussed in this article. It is a hopeful sign that classically trained musicians such as Merel Vercammen, Maya Fridman and Joachim Eijlander, are crossing the boundaries of musical genres and taking up the time-honored tradition of improvisation.
Over the past year, many of us have watched livestreams and YouTube videos of musical performances, as we wait for the positive developments that will allow restarting of live concerts. A beautifully produced companion video of “Silent City” can be seen on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oe2G38r5xIg
I’ve heard quite a few performances of Vasks’ Castillo Interior and none better than the performance given us here by Vercammen and Fridman. They well capture the inner meditative peace of the work, interrupted by the harsh clangorous demands of day-to-day life beyond the secure walls in which peace can be found.
The Vasks work is followed by two improvisations: “Improvisation – Silent City” and “Invention No. 7 Reinvented” based on J.S. Bach’s Invention No. 7. Both very nicely realized.
Excellent music by two accomplished musicians who engage well with each other. On the improvisations, they read and react to each other’s initiations seamlessly to create compelling compositions-in-the-moment. The sound quality is another superb TRPTK recording. Highest recommendation!
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