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The air is crisp, the days are shorter, and the Melbourne grey sky is ever present. Winter is on its way, not that we had a particularly warm summer.

Once again, I’ve grouped together a few pieces from all sorts of places, a mix of solo violin, mixed ensembles and vocal works. I tend to go down rabbit holes when I’m searching for new things to listen to and this playlist features works mainly released in the last few years.

Tiff Cheng's Songs for a Winter's Night

Caroline Shaw - Partita for 8 voices

First up we have Caroline Shaw, the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for her Partita for 8 voices. Do have a listen to the whole work as it is highly inventive, taking on baroque dances and forms from the 16th century into the 21st.

Lankum - Go Dig My Grave

Moving on to something completely different, Lankum is an Irish experimental folk quartet. They have a dark oppressive sonic world that draws from the turbulence of historic folk songs. Go Dig My Grave is a slow dirge that begins with the desolate, haunting solo voice of Radie Peat. Layers of drones and voices join her lament and descend into a funeral procession inspired by the Irish tradition of keening or caoineadh.

Richard Reed Parry - Music for Heart and Breath

Moving from death to life, Richard Reed Parry’s Music for Heart and Breath is based on a fascinating concept using the performers’ own heart beats and breath rates to determine the pace at which the music is performed. Players wear stethoscopes to hear their own heartbeats and the result is a delicate, fragile work that is incredibly intimate.

YMUSIC - Three Elephants

YMUSIC is a contemporary sextet consisting of violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet and trumpet. This album released in 2023 is self composed, written collaboratively by all members of the ensemble that sits in the gap between classical and popular music. Their incredible musicianship and creativity blur the boundaries between genres and truly present compositions that reflect our current artistic landscape.

Bryce Dessner - Résponse Lutosławski

The music of Bartok and Lutosławski sit very close to my heart. My last recital at ANAM was a ridiculous pairing of Lutosławski’s Partita and Bartok’s 2nd Sonata for Violin and Piano. I was delighted to find Bryce Dessner’s homage to Lutosławski’s homage to Bartok.

Réponse Lutosławski was written as an homage to Witold Lutosławski’s amazing composition for string orchestra, Musique funèbre [dedicated to Bartok]... This was an amazing process of discovering one of the 20th-centuries great musical minds and allowing his adventurous spirit to influence my own musical decisions...I like to think that his music opened a window in a certain direction for me, or pushed open a door, through which I could then pass and take my journey with the music.

Bryce Dessner

Heilung - Krigsgaldr

One of my favourite violinists is Patricia Kopatchinskaja. This Klezmer dance reminds me of raucous dancing, way too much wine and a merry fire. It’s just good old fun Heilung is yet another experimental folk band that describe their music as “amplified history from early mediaeval northern Europe”. They use a blend ritualistic blend of throat singing, archaic instruments such as rattles and bells and electric elements. They create works that connect our modern society with humanity’s first forays into music.

Lera Auerbach - Ballet for a Lonely Violinist

Finally, Lera Auerbach is an artist that I discovered a few years ago. I have added her complete Ballet for a Lonely Violinist as I couldn’t choose a single movement. Each movement encapsulates the various emotions of being alone from boredom and indifference to anger to quiet introspection.

Perhaps a bleak collection of works but I feel they capture the cold change of winter. Stay warm.

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