Debut album by andPlay features world premiere recordings commissioned by the duo
Violinist Maya Bennardo and violist Hannah Levinson perform works by David Bird, Clara Iannotta and Ashkhan Behzadi
“playlist” on New Focus Recordings is released on September 27, 2019
When violinist Maya Bennardo and violist Hannah Levinson decided to form the duo andPlay in 2012, their mission was to expand the repertoire for their instrumentation. By any measure, this New York-based duo has already succeeded. andPlay has commissioned and premiered nearly three dozen works to date, in addition to performing other rarely heard 21st century works, in venues from New York City to Stockholm.
All four of the works on andPlay’s debut album, “playlist” (New Focus Recordings, FCR233, release date September 27, 2019) are world premiere studio recordings. The duo commissioned three of these: Crescita Plastica by Ashkan Behzadi, and two pieces by David Bird: Bezier and Apocrypha. The fourth work, Clara Iannotta's Limun, was previously released as a live recording, and is heard here for the first time in a studio performance.
This collection of composers represents diverse cultural backgrounds and styles. Iranian-American Ashkan Behzadi’s Crescita Plastica(2015) “begins like a mad virtuoso falling off a cliff, as though all the wild expressiveness of music over the last 400 years were suddenly unleashed,” writes Meghan Burke in the liner notes. The work is a dense struggle between opposing musical elements — sustained lines with crescendi of varying lengths; violent interjections of double stops; furious microtonal passage work; and razor thin ponticello outbursts.
New York composer David Bird’s Bezier (2013)opens with a playful cataloging of timbres on the instruments, a vocabulary of scratches, cracks, pops, and breathy bow sounds in childlike exploration. Emerging from this texture are ethereal harmonic trills, briefly conjuring the fragile sound world of Sciarrino’s solo violin works, floating into a remarkable section of chirping sounds that could be mistaken for a field recording in a bird sanctuary. The second work by Bird on the album,Apocrypha (2017), incorporates electronics, producing a dialogue between the acoustic and digital sounds in which the acoustic sounds struggle to maintain their organic identity.
The sonic palette in Italian-born Clara Iannotta’sLimun (2011) explores shimmering harmonics, brilliant ponticello exclamations, and weightless glissandi, forming composite phrases that establish a tactile sensuality. The work requires the participation of two page turners who serve double-duty: they each play a high drone on a small harmonica.
Maya Bennardo and Hannah Levinson are true ambassadors for their instrumentation, pushing their collaborators to find new ways of writing for their instruments that sound like more than just a violin and a viola. This album goes beyond exploring the limits of instrumental technique and sound, engaging with aesthetic boundaries and possessing the ineffable, mysterious quality of communicating emotional truths far greater than the sum of their parts.
andPlay performs on October 4 at Metropolis in New York City; in Columbus, Ohio on November 20 and at Kent State University on November 21; details forthcoming. Contact ClassicalCommunications@gmail.com to request a physical or digital copy of this recording.
1. Ashkan Behzadi – Crescita Plastica (2015) - 14:30
2. David Bird – Bezier (2013) - 9:18
3. Clara Iannotta – Limun (2011) - 7:24
4. David Bird – Apocrypha (2017) - 16:47