For this one, the listener is going to have to possess a sonic appetite well in excess of the norm, as Ms. Sirota embraces, toys with, and expands the neoclassical bent of modern string music, straightly falling in with Paul Giger, Gidon Kremer, Elliott Carter, and other estimables. Her choice of compositions is impeccable, all drawn from the late modernist canon, each as intriguing as the next, as informed by the hallowed giants (Schoenberg, Penderecki, Ligeti, Bartok, etc.) as by ECM's New Series and other ventures (the New World label and so on). Nor, I suspect, has Nadia Sirota been unmindful of some of the extraordinary work published in the progressive rock and jazz fields over the decades. I seem to detect, for one, a bit of Anthony Davis influence in the works she executes.
Nico Muhly is her favored writer, a protégé of Philip Glass, and someone slowly coming to note in the New York classical and electroacoustic music scene. I wouldn't be surprised to hear his opuses flowing out from Knitting Factory recitations...nor from Manfred Eicher's offices. Sirota tackles them with élan and crystal clarity, not to mention an injection of her own spirit, glowing and redolent of an acumen and imagination well beyond her young years. Then, in Marcos Balter's Ut, one can't help but be pleased with the spacious explorations a la Paul Giger's Schattenwelt, a free-form mural in volume, touch, inflection, and presence.
First Things First is an exceedingly mature work, not a moment frittered in the cliché or mundane, and, as such, is helping immensely to herald the spotless taste of the New Amsterdam label, a venture devoted to modernist new musics regardless of seeming genre alliances. See my review of QQQ (here) and Darcy James Argue (here) for contrasts, because the imprint represents a flow of impeccable taste rather than the catholic herd mentality of most labels. Much of First is solo work—though one cut's a duet, another a quartet—and devoted to that seemingly dying form, reinvoking the power of the individual voice well disciplined, sparklingly informed, and anarchistically intelligent.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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