by Mark Buller | 13 FEB 2019
The Belgian guitar/cello Edenwood Duo have, since their inception in 2016, worked to showcase recently-written works; indeed, given the relative scarcity of literature for this particular instrumentation, the need for new pieces should come at no surprise. What is striking, then, is their dedication to a relatively wide range of styles in the contemporary idiom, from music that might easily accompany a documentary film, to dense, more traditionally “modern” music.
This dedication is evidenced on the duo’s new album, Another Place, which contains music from the last three decades, some of which was written for them. The two performers, guitarist Catherine Struys and cellist Wouter Vercruysse, display an easygoing musical relationship: their playing is assured, unhesitant, confident, and highly nuanced.
One thing the Edenwood Duo does well is to let the music speak for itself without letting themselves get in the way. The intimate, meditative “Luminance” by Nathan Kolosko provides just the opportunity in an unchallenging (from the standpoint of the listener) but not uninteresting piece. Similarly, in Michel Lysight’s “Meditation” we sense an easygoing casualness. Armand Coeck’s “Soledad” allows the performers’ tight-knit collaboration to shine, and it is hard to imagine a piece that better puts on display their particular sound and stylistic choices — apt, since the piece was dedicated to them.
Edenwood duo (guitarist Catherine Struys and cellist Wouter Vercruysse) plays “Soledad” by Armand Coeck in a live video from a performance in Profondsart, Belgium, August 2018. (credit: A Croch’Note Artists)
Several works on the album allow the duo to explore more of the possibilities inherent to this particular combo. Notable is Erkki-Sven Tüür’s “Spiel,” with its hard-driving rhythms and unapologetic dissonance providing much-needed counterpoint to some of the album’s sweeter, more wistful moments. Tüür’s background in progressive rock is center stage, and the performers bring all the immediacy the piece requires.
Notable too is Raffaele Bellafronte’s 1994 “Suite No. 1,” which deftly brings to the forefront the influence of dance (specifically, tango) without ever resorting to pastiche or parody. The piece is very well constructed, and over the course of four movements charts an ever-pressing momentum. The performers understand this well, and it shows in their performance; as the piece progresses, they push at just the right moments and allow opportunities to regroup between bouts of intensity.
Overall, Another Place is a well-balanced program by a highly-assured duo. The recorded sound is very nicely done, showing the richness of the cello and the golden shimmer of the guitar. This is the benefit of such an album: it is an invitation to participate up-close in some of the truly beautiful, intimate moments that happen at the best of times in performances of chamber music. ■