File Under Favorites 2022

Olivia de Prato


New World Records

Violinist Oliva de Prato is one of the stalwarts of the New York new music community, performing premieres with a plethora of organizations and in demand as a solo artist. Her latest recording for New World, I.AM. is a celebration of “Artistry and Motherhood.” De Prato, a mother herself, commissioned composers who are navigating motherhood and their careers. The project provides a nurturing, welcome perspective.


“Automatic Writing Mumbles of the Late Hours,” is by Natacha Diels, a composer and sound artist. The piece requires de Prato to trigger various electronics. The resultant sounds create shimmering textures in the upper register, while angular melodies accrete in the middle register. “Mycorrhiza I,” by Katherine Young, employs bow pressure and altissimo glissandos in alternation and accreting in intensity. Partway through, the music stops and resumes with transparency and sparer bow pressure A swath of pizzicatos, including pizzicato glissandos, are offset by bell-like repeated notes. Electronics adds a tolling drumbeat while the upper register materials are combined to create off-kilter swaths of detailed harmony.


Hang-Yang Kim’s “May You Dream of Rainbows in Magical Lands” is written in a just-intonation system called “Centaur.” Demonstrating the interval qualities, the piece focuses on sustained notes from electronics and violin. These stack up, creating held sonorities in which notes move in and out of the verticals. It is a beguiling, gradually transforming sound world and the blend of electronics and violin is beautifully presented. Little traces of found percussion, played by de Prato’s son, nibble at the edges of the pitch scape. 


Pamela Stickney is a composer and theremin player. She joins de Prato on “Noch Unbennant,” a piece developed by the duo from initial improvisations. Theremin and violin are a felicitous pairing, and alongside electronics, the duo explores a panoply of sounds in a labyrinthine formal design. “Fire in the Dark” began from vocal improvisations by its composer, Jen Baker, who then collaborated with de Prato to translate these into harmonics, bow pressure, and altissimo melodic patterns. This is succeeded by purely tuned sustained multi-stops, which gradually devolve, sliding away from the initial interval. After a pause, pianissimo skittering gestures provide an interruption before once again de Prato plays sustained glissandos. A brief coda of the same intervals articulated in short values closes the piece.


Zosha di Casti’s “The Dream Feed” opens with glassy electronics, percussive punctuations, and a duo between violin and piano. Thrumming bass notes and breathy sustained ones build alongside repeated passages from the violin, overdubbed with soprano register solos. These are offset by electronic percussion and glissandos. A high double stop, pressed even higher as it sustains, is accompanied by an aggressive bass register and percussion electronic passage. The electronics drop out and de Prato plays a mid-register modal melody, swathed in a piano ostinato. Sustained harmonics and repeated notes populate the upper register while the piano’s part becomes increasingly disjunct. A piano ostinato and blurring glissandos create a hazy atmosphere. Percussion, gruff electronics and another ostinato, this time ascending microtonally in the violin, bring the music out of its reverie and intensify the piece’s conclusion. A treble splash from the piano serves as a punctuation. 


A half dozen pieces, all in an experimental vein and hypervirtuosic in terms of demands, yet each distinct and compelling in their own right. De Prato remains an extraordinary advocate and here presents an imaginatively conceived and superlatively performed recording. 


-Christian Carey