BOND Instruments of Revelation
Gramophone Magazine | October 2019
By Guy Rickards
Victoria Bond (b1945) is a multifaceted composer and conductor (the first woman to hold a Doctorate in Conducting from the Juilliard School). Her catalogue ranges from chamber opera – her Clara was premiered this April during the Berlin Philharmonic Easter Festival to mark Clara Schumann’s bicentenary – to concertos, vocal, chamber and instrumental pieces, for instance the quintet for flute, clarinet and piano trio Instruments of Revelation (2010), which derives from three Tarot cards. Resonances of Stravinsky and Debussy rub shoulders before the triptych closes with ‘a touch of both comedy and chaos’.
There is more of both – and pathos – in Frescoes and Ash (2009), inspired by the paintings of Pompeii and, in the finale, the citizens’ appalling fate. Bond uses her ensemble (clarinet, piano, percussion and string quartet) sparingly in four of the seven movements; the central ‘The Sibyl Speaks’, for example, is a trio for two violins and viola. The whole is stylistically varied but always tonal, sometimes a little freely, as is the piano piece Binary (2005), which cunningly transmutes the digits 0 and 1 into variations on a samba!
Leopold Bloom’s Homecoming (2011) is a scena for tenor (sometimes speaking, sometimes singing) and piano, part of a varied series setting portions of Joyce’s Ulysses (Molly ManyBloom is available on Albany). Composed for Rufus Müller – who sings, narrates and declaims it with relish, nimbly accompanied by Jenny Lin – it is perhaps more of an acquired taste (like Joyce) but there is no denying the inventiveness of Bond’s setting. The performances throughout are well prepared and committed, from the virtuoso pianism of Olga Vinokur to the effortless ensemble of Chicago Pro Musica. An excellent disc and a benchmark for how contemporary music can be presented to a wider public.