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Album review: Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords steps confidently to the fore

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(Jimmy Asnes photo)
(Jimmy Asnes photo)

American violist Nicholas Cords has boldly stepped into the spotlight with his first solo album, a rich, diverse and deeply satisfying showcase of everything his instrument and his artistry are capable of — even without the benefit of accompaniment.

 

The member of Brooklyn Rider and the Silk Road Ensemble has titled his album Recursions in reference to his penchant for music with repetitive structures — a choice that gives him tremendous leeway. The album was released last week by Brooklyn Rider’s label, In a Circle Records.

He starts dramatically with a transcription of a solo Passacaglia Heinrich Biber wrote for his Rosary Sonatas for violin, from 1676. Cords segues into his own arrangement of an Irish tune, before tackling hypnotic Meditations on a Byzantine Hymn ‘O Quance e cruce’ written by English composer Edmund Rubbra in 1964.

There’s more mesmerizing work: Elegie, written by Igor Stravinsky in 1944, and the 1923 Sonata No. 5 for solo viola by Paul Hindemith, a composer who is sadly underappreciated outside music schools.

Right in the middle is Cords’ own outing as a composer. It’s a cycle of short pieces he wrote last year, Five Migrations, where he has done some clever work in overlaying different sounds he was able to create on his five-year-old, Brooklyn-made viola.

This is one of those rare albums that compels in all styles, and can make people who fear new music forget that they are listening to recent creations. Cords has incredible control over his bow, coaxing out a remarkable range of dynamics and timbres. There isn’t a dull moment on this album.

You can read up on him and the album, as well as listen to audio samples, here.

John Terauds

 

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