A SIERRA Butterflies Remember a Mountain
When Bridge champions a composer, one needs to sit up and take notice: the series devoted to George Crumb, Fred Lerdahl and Poul Ruders provide eloquent testimony of that. Arlene Sierra, American-born in 1970 but long resident in the UK, is another in the company’s focus and this third volume (the first was released in 2011, the second – of orchestral works – three years later) is a wonderful chamber music issue that enthrals from first bar to last.
The title-work is Sierra’s second piano trio, Butterflies Remember a Mountain (2013). The piece has garnered much critical admiration (7/16) and was written for the players performing it here, Nicola Benedetti, Leonard Elschenbroich and Alexei Grynyuk. Many of Sierra’s works derive inspiration from the natural world and its fauna (readers may recall the premiere in 2017 of her Nature Symphony, a part-reworking of this trio), and this is no exception. There is a Takemitsu-like conceit to its title, the three movements titled respectively ‘Butterflies’, ‘Remember’ and ‘A Mountain’, and the music has a Japanese exquisiteness and restrained power.
Sierra’s first trio, Truel (2002 04), is of a markedly different character, a duel between the three players (hence the title), combative and utterly compelling. So, too, is the violin-and-cello duet Avian Mirrors (2013), a fascinating non-Messiaenic triptych on birdsong that lingers long in the memory. Counting-Out Rhyme (2002) and the closing piano duet, Of Risk and Memory (1997), are both beguiling and broaden her frame of reference and instrumental palette. The performances are all first-rate; the recorded sound – from three different locations and dates – is beautifully engineered. Very strongly recommended.