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Caroline Shaw: The Wheel

I Giardini (Alpha Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Caroline Shaw
The Wheel; Gustave le Gray; Thousandth Orange etc.
I Giardini
Alpha Classics ALPHA 881   55:53 mins


Computer gremlins occasionally cause my sound system to play two tracks simultaneously, often with surprisingly mellifluous results. Thousandth Orange, the work that opens I Giardini’s survey of Caroline Shaw’s chamber music, recreates this effect to the point that I had to double check that technological issues were not responsible. Two contrasting subjects – divided between piano and strings – seemingly jostle for attention; the cross-rhythms becoming increasingly prominent. I Giardini revels in the abrasive melodies, which bear the hallmarks of Shaw’s writing for strings (as heard on Attacca Quartet’s albums) and include lots of crunchy harmonies. Layering is also key in Gustave Le Gray, a solo piano piece that weaves ideas from Chopin’s Op. 17 No 4 into Shaw’s soundworld, and Limestone & Felt, a work for cello and viola that pushes both instruments to extremes while remaining rooted in tonal melodies.

Cellist Pauline Buet and viola player Léa Hennino find beauty in the collision between hard and soft articulation. The titular work for cello and piano, commissioned by I Giardini, evokes the sense of walking alone, accompanied by inner voices. Rumbling, repeated motifs eventually turn to a sparse duet between upper-octave piano and pizzicato cello notes, suggesting the internal dialogue has settled.


Claire Jackson