06 Victoria Bond IlluminationIllumination – Piano Works of Victoria Bond
Paul Barnes; Philharmony Bohuslav Martinů
Albany Records TROY1880 (albanyrecords.com)

Veteran American conductor Victoria Bond (b.1945) is also very active as a composer. Her melodic inventiveness and dramatic flair are perhaps the most notable features of both her instrumental and operatic scores. On Illumination Bond shares her compositional spotlight with her collaborator, the concert pianist Paul Barnes. He has one of the most unusual doubles for a concert pianist I’ve ever heard: he is also a very credible singer of Byzantine chant. And he shows that vocal talent to good effect on the concluding four concise tracks, accompanied by a male chorus.

The album begins with Bond’s three-movement Illuminations on Byzantine Chant for solo piano (2021), an extended piano meditation on three contrasting Byzantine liturgical chants. It’s followed by two piano concertos – Black Light (1997) and Ancient Keys (2002) – the program bookended by Barnes’ idiomatically convincing rendering of the aforementioned Byzantine chants.

The composer writes that the title “Black Light implies the light that shines from African America music, which has had a profound effect on my compositions. The first movement contrasts a driving, aggressive orchestra with a playful, jaunty response in the piano.” The slow soul-searching second movement was inspired by Jewish liturgical music, while the third by the scat singing of Ella Fitzgerald set in a combination of orchestral variation and rondo forms. Featuring the Philharmony Bohuslav Martinů and Barnes’ rhythmically and dynamically incisive solo piano, this is my favourite music on the album.

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