Imagine an album with images of family vacations, weddings, and portraits. But instead of photos, the album contains music. That’s exactly what violist David Walther has created with the four works he has composed for Threads of the Heart (released by Albany Records). The result is a collection of vivid portraits which capture his family’s personalities and celebrate memorable occasions in their lives.
The album opens with Four Postcards (2008), a four-movement work which Walthers performs with fellow Debussy Trio members Angela Wiegand, flute and Marcia Dickstein, harp. Dedicated to Walther’s father and niece, each “postcard” depicts a scene from the composer’s yearly family vacations at Sanibel Island in Florida. This delightful tone poem showcases Walther’s remarkable ability to paint a picture with musical devices. The first movement employs swells by the viola and flute to represent a baby’s peaceful breaths as she sleeps amidst the chaos in an airport terminal. In the second movement, the gentle plucking of a harp becomes waves caressing the beach, while a peaceful flute melody evokes cirrus clouds suspended in the sky. The third movement finds the viola emulating a flock of seagulls with atonal squawks and pecking bow strokes. An uncanny re-creation of a fishing expedition takes place in the fourth movement with the viola as a sputtering motorboat engine, the harp as glistening water, and the flute as the fish squirming in the water.
For Philadelphia Park, the second work on the album, Walther moves away from the external imagery of a vacation to explore the inner psyche. Performed with pianist Duncan J. Cumming, the three-movement viola and piano duo imagines the feelings which Walther’s sister had during a difficult time in her life. The sparse opening of the first movement delves into a jabbing exchange of a two-note upward motif between the piano and viola. The instruments often work independently of each other, reflecting the inharmonious thoughts of an anxious mind. In the mournful second movement, the two-note motif transforms into a gentle gesture as part of the piano melody. The viola’s untethered tune floats into the stratosphere as the piano plays disturbingly repetitive chords. The joyful third movement borrows the polytonality and recurring triplet figure from the second movement of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Viola Sonata.
After the rhythmic and harmonic complexity of the previous work, Walther includes Eshet Chayil as a palate cleanser. The solo viola piece, written for his brother’s wedding ceremony, is a stark soliloquy which showcases Walther’s burnished tone.
The album closes with The Other Way! performed by Capital Trio members Hillary Walther Cumming, violin; Şölen Dikener, cello; and Duncan Cumming, piano. The four-movement work is a loving portrayal of the composer’s mother and daughter, who both have a poor sense of direction. Walther’s style and harmonic language in this piece combine the irreverence of Shostakovich with the harmonic crunch of Hindemith. The first movement is a cheerful debate between mother and granddaughter about which way to go. Overlapping polytonal melodies give the impression of two people talking over each other. The second movement has all the cheekiness of a Shostakovich waltz. In the third movement, a delicate piano solo reiterates a bell-like figure. The violin and cello play a peaceful, introspective melody in unison. The overall effect is of a person sitting up late at night, thinking. A bashful soprano piano and violin melody introduce the final movement. Next, the cello and piano bounce in with a sprightly bass melody. The soprano and bass melodies play hide and seek before tumbling together into an atonal scramble. Finally, the movement closes out the album with a Joyous romp and jazzy rhythms.
The evocative sound world of Threads of the Heart makes it a perfect complement to any violist’s collection. Walther’s harmonic language is engaging, and each of the performers imbue the music with charm and spirit. A complete track listing is available below.
The Other Way
III. Walk in the Woods
IV. Introduction and Finale
- Funky-shaped violas (fireandair.wordpress.com)