Powerful performances bridge stylistic differences

Olivia de Prato: Panorama

The Strad Issue: July 2023

Description: Powerful performances bridge stylistic differences

Musicians: Olivia de Prato (violin)

Works: Music by Fernando, Masaoka, Mazzoli, Negrón and Shyu

Catalogue number: NEW FOCUS RECORDINGS FCR368

Despite its overarching title, there’s little in musical terms to connect the five highly contrasting recent works by women composers on this rewarding disc from Austro-Italian violinist Olivia de Prato. What brings them all together, however, is de Prato’s bold, confident playing across the pieces’ diverse styles and demands, and her ability to delve deeply into each one and convey its themes and arguments with insight and technical panache.

That comes across most clearly in the gritty but darkly lyrical Jeom Jaeng Yi by US composer and vocalist Jen Shyu, based on the speech rhythms of a novel by South Korean writer Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, lines from which de Prato intones intermittently alongside her playing. Her bright, expressive playing stands out beautifully against the iridescent washes of electronics in Missy Mazzoli’s jaw harp-inspired Tooth and Nail, and de Prato remains buoyant and sharply defined even among the microtones and extended techniques in Miya Masaoka’s Mapping a Joyful Path.

The disc’s two most successful tracks are also those most clearly indebted to minimalism. De Prato floats a rich, slow-moving melodic line over the top of nimble, pulsing electronics in the witty Panorama by Puerto Rican-born Angélica Negrón; and British composer Samantha Fernando’s Balconies pits the violinist against four pre-recorded versions of herself in closely related, sometimes overlapping material, a persuasively argued creation that de Prato delivers with expressive flair. It’s a satisfying survey of recent music for solo violin, with and without electronics, captured in close, warm sound.