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CD Feature/ Aisling Agnew & Matthew McAllister: "Recital"

img  Tobias

Even though the cover of this album depicts two instruments with a long tradition of their own, it is really an album about the interaction between two Classical musicians very much in touch with the present. Aisling Agnew and Matthew McAllister know their way in the digital domain, in the confinements of a studio surrounding and in the splintered landscape of 21st century composition, while at the same time cherishing the purity of a traditional concert with baroque and impressionist pieces. “Recital”, therefore, can be seen as a summary of what they are about, both aesthetically and programatically.

If that sounds too serious and intellectual, let’s put it differently: If you can’t catch this duo live, then “Recital” is the next best thing. Here you’ll find a Bach sonata next to a Carmen-transcription, works 300 years old and 3 years young, concise three minute tracks and overflowing fantasies. Few world premieres and special commissions, Agnew and McAllister concentrate on what has already proven its value or deserves a second listen and that is an approach which works commendibly well and needs no superlatives. It also matches the character of the performance, as this musical partnership is one of gentle contours, soft outlines and a dulcet flow. Even the more spikey and edgey moments have a relaxed feeling to them, which at first seems just a tad too mellow, but becomes more and more hypnotical as the album progresses and lends a touch of spring to the interpretations – even the broken groove of David Fennessy’s “continuity error” never irritates and the tender loops of “Mouvements Perpetuels” by Francis Poulenc drift like a seagull in the warm winds of summer. What certainly comes as an important bonus are the many different timbral colours Agnew and McAllister are drawing from their instruments, practically building each piece from scratch, while keeping a steady flow over the entire 55 minutes.

“Recital” is not a disc which will make you jump from your seat in ecstacy, but it is a work which lures you into loving it by its unintrusive nature. Despite its general pleasantness, it can never ever be confused with the background music running in barber shops – it is vivid and full of the pleasure of being alive, albeit in its own mood. Of course this kind of delicacy requires absolute certainty that your musical partner is on the same wavelength. Which brings us back to the abovementioned charcterisation of this album as a display of the interaction between its creators: You can actually hear the trust.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Aisling Agnew
Homepage: Matthew McAllister
Homepage: Agnew/McAllister Duo
Homepage: Naturalstudio Records

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