Album Review: Violin Sonatas/Charody

Composer Chloé Charody’s new release due out on 1 April 2023 features two sonatas for violin and piano, the Violin Sonata No. 1 opus 38 (Tale of The Firebird)  and the Violin Sonata No 2  (opus 49 LIMBO)  written for and performed by virtuoso violinist Sonja Schebeck with pianist Chanda VanderHart with viola player Yukari Aotani.

Both sonatas were composed specifically for the unique skills of Sonja Schebeck who deftly combines music, fire and acrobatics into a breathtaking performance. Charody’s Tale of The Firebird- was originally a concerto for “aerial fire-taming-violin-virtuoso and fire-taming-acrobatic orchestra” written for Sonja Schebeck and The Freestyle Orchestra, which premiered at Sydney’s VIVID Festival at the City Recital Hall in 2019, supported by The Australia Council for the Arts. This audio version of this music for the smaller ensemble of violin and piano, clearly omits the visual thrills but makes the music more easily accessible.

Charody puts her own spin on the story of The Firebird, pitting it against The Raven. The Firebird eventually triumphs in this story of good over evil, light over darkness. Charody’s Sonata No 1, Tale of The Firebird is a sonata of 9 movements lasting around ½ an hour in total. Each movement has an evocative title which tells the narrative. The Sonata No 2 is slightly shorter, in 6 titled movements, lasting around 20 minutes in all. The freely-flowing movements of both works are self- contained and it is It is conceivable that they may be performed as stand-alone works as well part of the whole.  

Charody’s parlance is vivid, using the full potential of the violin’s range and techniques, including left- and right- hand pizzicato, extended techniques and glissandi. She uses each instrument as equal partners together, as well as in solo. The second movement of the Sonata No 2, for example, is a jagged dance for solo violin, with the thematic interest in the upper register, anchored in a dotted rhythm ostinato base. The second movement of the Sonata No 1 is also a soliloquy for violin, titled Dance of the Firebird, a scorching, virtuosic cameo, tossed off with brilliant ease by Schebeck, the firebird calling out as it darts off into the horizon.

Showcasing the piano, the Sonata No 1 opens with Golden Nest, a rippling solo full of optimism and comfort, which contrasts with the darker moods of the tale to come. The Dance of the Clowns, the third movement of the Sonata No 2, is a macabre, rhythmic and provocative duo for violin and piano which ventures into a whimsical central piano section in the style of a languid cake-walk before returning to the dark side.

There are lyrical, amorous melodies, like Young Hearts and a gently swirling waltz in Magic to Ashes, both from the first sonata; there is a lucence to the nocturne-like Song for the Moon and a brash, menacing swagger to Lunacy, both movements from the second sonata.

Charody’s music is entertaining, engaging and expertly performed. However, she has built in another layer to this mix. LIMBO (2022) is set at Melbourne Park Hotel in 2021, a time and a place where refugees were held in detention with no assurance regarding their future. LIMBO takes us through a cycle of emotions triggered by this experience and asks us to imagine what it would be like to be in this predicament. She concludes this statement with The Lost World, an expansive aria for piano and violin which, while grieving for lost lives and lifestyles, hopes and ambitions, also raises the seeds of optimism and hope, “one of the greatest weapons against oppression.”

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©




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