Up and coming classical guitar/flute duo, Duo Alterity, released their first album this year – the self-titled Duo Alterity.
The album is a warm, organic collection of contemporary compositions. The pieces are performed flawlessly by Allison Hughes (flute) and Joseph Van Doran (classical guitar).
While the classical chamber repertoire (including more contemporary compositions) can sometimes seem to be an exercise in instrumental technique – or even just a historical reproduction of traditional music – that is not the case here.
Duo Alterity brings a level of authenticity and emotional connection that is inspiring. The pieces are vibrant. The listener gets the sense that the performers really “own” the music and are playing from a place of passion. One is immediately drawn into the narrative of the compositions.
Indeed, Hughes and Van Doran specifically chose the pieces for their self-title album to reflect their own passion for contemporary music. The three works performed demonstrate a variety of contemporary compositions. Included are new, lesser known pieces, such as “From the Dreaming”, as well as standard, classic works like, “Histoire du Tango”.
The compositions are united by a share emphasis on narrative – each one tells a story. “Histoire du Tango” tells the story of Tango through the 20th century. “Romeo and Juliet” re-tells the classic and eternal Shakespeare play. And “From the Dreaming”, a programmatic piece, recounts the story of the composer’s to the Australian Outback.
Where To Listen
You can listen on SoundCloud:
Or puchase on CDbaby:
Histoire du Tango – Astor Piazzolla
1. Bordel 1900 (4:12)
2. Cafe 1930 (7:40)
3. Nightclub 1960 (6:27)
4. Concert d’aujourd’hui (3:07)
Romeo and Juliet – Ned Rorem
5. I ne’re saw true beauty till this night (2:34)
6. Queen Mab hath been with you (2:22)
7. How silver-sweet sound lover’s tongues by night (2:44)
8. O serpent heart… (1:47)
9. …sad hours seem long (1:21)
10. …it was the nightingale (2:48)
11. Come weep with me… (1:57)
12. …empty tigers (1:54)
13. …never was a story of more woe (3:48)
From the Dreaming – Phillip Houghton
14. Cave Painting (5:30)
15. Wildflower (5:34)
16. Gecko (3:13 )
Romeo and Juliet (by Ned Rorem)
1. I ne’re saw true beauty till this night
With these words Romeo expresses his feelings when he first sees Juliet. The first half of this movement is quite tranquil, representing the events at the ball. The second half becomes more agitated, probably representing the feud between Romeo and Juliet’s families.
2. Queen Mab hath been with you
Queen Mab is the mischievous sprite who keeps appearing in Romeo’s dreams warning him of danger. The movement is in an irregular meter, with the constant changing of note groupings representing her sly teasing and cryptic warnings. The silences represent Queen Mab’s sudden appearances and disappearances.
3. How silver-sweet sound lover’s tongues by night
These words are spoken during the famous balcony scene. Romeo is trying to tell Juliet of his feelings for her, but Juliet is rather aloof because of the feud between their families. The guitar part represents her distance and unease. The tone of the movement is conversational with the guitar part marked “nervous” and the flute part marked “calm.”
4. O serpent heart…
Juliet has just learned of the death of Tybalt at the hands of Romeo. She is angry at the circumstances which deprive her of her cousin, Tybalt, and her husband, Romeo, who is banished for killing him. Her only relief is the realization that if Romeo had not killed Tybalt, Romeo himself would be dead. This movement alternates sections of dissonant intervals and softer more expressive passages. The movement is marked “passionate and biting.”
5. …sad hours seem long
This movement is out of sequence with the play. Before Romeo meets Juliet, he is lamenting the sad state of his love life. This music is quite static, with very little dynamic range, representing a dull, flat period in Romeo’s life.
6. …it was the nightingale
The flute in the beginning of this movement actually represents the morning lark outside the window at Juliet’s home. This movement takes place just before Romeo flees to Mantua. He hears the bird and knows that morning has come and that he must leave, but Juliet holds him back saying that it was only the nightingale. This movement begins softly with the call of a bird, but becomes more frenzied, representing the anguish of soon to be separated lovers.
7. Come weep with me…
Juliet is asking the friar how she can prevent her coming marriage to Paris. The flute and guitar continually imitate each other, creating rhythmic tension throughout the piece. The quiet tension and grating dissonances of the movement represent Juliet’s agony over separation from Romeo and a forced marriage to another man.
8. …empty tigers
Romeo is contemplating suicide after hearing of the death of Juliet. He gives his servant a message for his father and warns the servant not to interfere. “The time and my intents are savage wild / More fierce and more inexorable far / Than empty tigers of the roaring sea.”
9. …never was a
story of more woe
These closing lines of the play create the closing mood of this work. The movement fluctuates between dirge-like chordal passages, and lamenting wails of grief.”
From the Dreaming (by Phillip Houghton)
“In 1986 while working on a huge Gas Pipeline project that stretched from Darwin to Alice Springs, I finally got to experience Australia’s ‘Out-back’: its red deserts and searing heat; its isolation and stillness; the flora and fauna; and its sudden, violent storms. I discovered ancient river-beds and caves; in the Spring the red carpet of dust was covered in flowers of yellow, orange and purple; and on one memorable day a small Gecko lizard hitched a ride on my shoulder and in my pocket as I went about my work alongside the bulldozers and road-trains. I always wanted to transfer these images and feelings into sound and, hopefully, in this work something of the ‘Out-back’ will be found – a dramatic eerie world of iridescent colour; a fantastic Spirit world; savage and beautiful; everything meant something and nothing. And at night the stars were only inches from your eyes.”
1. Cave Painting: to do with mystery, rock formations, ancient rock-art and “power fields”. The guitar, in this movement, attempts to mimic the Didgeridu.
2. Wildflower: the song of a single flower in an ever changing panorama and climate of storms, drought, heat and isolation… isolation and endless space.
3. Gecko: the life and times of a small Gecko lizard… in Scherzo form.”