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CD Review

Maria De Alvear


Christina Fong, viola
OgreOgress 643157112921 DDD 66:55
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As expected (!), indie classical label OgreOgress has given us another taste of the unexpected, or better, a cup of Lethe in the form of a 67-minute piece for solo viola by German-Spanish composer Maria de Alvear. Born in 1960, and educated from a young age in keyboard and composition, she eventually came to her mother's homeland, Germany, where she studied with avant-garde composer Mauricio Kagel. Like John Cage before her, Maria de Alvear has taken steps to make her compositions more subjective. For her, this has taken the form of automatic writing, a technique beloved by the Surrealists, but one used by de Alvear to remove rather than to celebrate ego. Her scores are frequently sprawling, both in terms of their length and their physical layout. (Shades of Morton Feldman.) She takes interest in the spaces in which music is performed – one wonders how this interest is reconciled with the present recording – and also in indigenous music. Her music sometimes puts ritualistic demands on the performer; it is concerned with nature, and also with feminine sexuality. (A work named Vagina was written in 1997.)

Fuerzas is almost too much to bear, and I mean that as a compliment. For more than an hour, a solo viola sings like a shaman peering over the edge of the world. Strictly homophonic, the material unrolls endlessly, evenly, as if it were a natural phenomenon. Connected phrases last for the length of a breath. The composer doesn't even use a wide range of notes; most of Fuerzas lies within the viola's richest register; occasional excursions upwards sound like bursts of rhetoric, and then soon settle down again. Fuerzas sounds like a conversation for one person. One would be tempted to call the music "elegiac" if the term weren't weighted with such emotional baggage.

Christina Fong plays Fuerzas with intense concentration; was this done in a single take? The reverberant acoustic suggests that the recording was made in a church – and why not, because Fuerzas seems like a forceful act of spirituality to me. This disc isn't for everyone, but I found it very listenable, and the sixty-seven-minute span flew by.

This CD is the first in a projected series featuring previously unrecorded works by emerging composers. All OgreOgress discs can be obtained at

Copyright © 2003, Raymond Tuttle