Andrew Staniland, Benton Roark, composers; Kate Learn, viola
Leaf Music, 2022
Outstanding Canadian violist Kate Learn, based mostly in Newfoundland, is a prolific performer. As a chamber musician, principal violist of the Newfoundland Symphony, veteran of main orchestras in Europe (together with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Academy of St Martin within the Fields), she is an eminent spokesperson for the viola. That is apparent from the stellar performances all through the eclectic choice of standard and new music.
On the traditional aspect, EvenNight opens with fanfare and presence, carried out with relentless power. It’s a characterised by a dance-like rhythm that’s technically difficult and sounds deceptively easy. Passacaglia poignantly attracts on acquainted baroque motifs, conveying eloquently that just a few notes can converse volumes when voiced intentionally and empathetically. Largo thoughtfully breathes creativity into standard motifs whereas Allegro Assai sparkles with enthusiasm and technical prowess.
On the forward-thinking aspect, the viola, in collaboration with different devices, can create a synesthesia-like impact, wherein sound evokes color—darkish, black and woody. Hair-raising sound results could be created when an “outdated” instrument is mixed with electronics— e.g. Blackwood Sketches, Hold in Contact, and Aftermath, worthy of the burgeoning gaming and video industries, à la Hans Zimmer. Kudos to Kate Learn.
The CD brilliantly highlights the potential of the viola as a solo instrument in standard and new music, a much-needed treasure to fill a void within the viola repertoire.