Listening Room

10 Adam RobertsAdam Roberts – Bell Threads
andPlay; Hannah Lash; Bearthoven; Erik Behr; JACK Quartet
New Focus Recordings FCR312 (


Shift Differential - Listen on Spotify

Happy/Angry Music - Listen on Spotify

Oboe Quartet: I. Explosive, Curvy, Raucous  - Listen on Spotify


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American composer Adam Roberts delivers a selection of his chamber music demonstrating an expressive compositional voice and creating engaging instrumental spaces. Roberts’ approach is focused with a brave sense of acoustic adventurousness and, using top-notch ensembles and soloists, this release enraptures ear and mind. Whether through timbral exploration or enchanting stasis, Roberts has a propensity to secure his structures with a continuous and recognizable motif while shifting focus toward other musical narratives. The result is one of clever design and intent: the music unfolds with an initial sense of random moments, but is grounded by carefully constructed and recognizable gestural frameworks. 

The disc begins with Shift Differential, an excited and energetic duet for violin and viola performed by andPlay. Roberts experiments with many successful timbral spaces that create momentum through constantly evolving, almost improvisatory, passages. Next, the Oboe Quartet performed by soloist Erik Behr and the JACK Quartet, shows Roberts’ more lyrical side in a work that is decidedly classical in its fast-slow-fast form. 

The gem on the disc is a piece titled Rounds for solo harp, performed by Hannah Lash. Cascading apparitions of sound permeate amid gentle clusters and multi-layered auras. Lash’s performance is stunning, with a musicality that is rare and captivating. Happy/Angry Music, a trio performed by Bearthoven, draws upon polystylistic material and utilizes repetition to propel the music forward. Lastly, Bell Threads, a work for solo viola performed by Hannah Levinson, produces a sinuous and mysterious soundworld that is unique on the disc. This haunting work is the perfect bookend to a truly impressive collection of chamber works.

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Author: Adam Scime
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