Musickè – The Art of Muses
Harpsichord Works by Graciane Finzi, Sofia Gubaidulina, Tania Léon, Ursula Mamlok, Misato Mochizuki, Karola Obermüller, Santa Ratniece, Augusta Read Thomas, Anna Thorvaldsdottir
Luca Quintavalle (harpsichord)
Brilliant 96476 74:47 mins
‘Reducing feminism to an ideology defined by social equity and equal opportunity hampers our ability to recognise its full revolutionary value,’ writes Luca Quintavalle in his intensely academic sleeve notes. His aim with this album is not simply to improve representation for female composers: he wants to eschew masculine perspectives entirely to allow feminine art to create a language of its own.
What this means in practice is that we are presented with a programme of highly contrasting works that highlight the sheer breadth of music written by female composers for the harpsichord. Nearly all the pieces featured here are debut recordings, whether that’s of the piece as a whole, a new harpsichord arrangement by Quintavalle himself or the first recording on a Baroque instrument.
Gubaidulina’s Ritorno perpetuo and Mochizuki’s Moebius-Ring are the two substantial works on this album, each built on mathematical concepts and numerological elements. Just like his programming choices, there is nothing shy or retiring about Quintavalle’s playing. His bold efforts are matched by an exposed, clear acoustic, which brings out the intensity of the frenetic moments and the violent harmonic clashes. The hard edges are at the fore, with the harpsichord’s plucking effect utilised to its full powers.
Whether or not Quintavalle’s academic approach to gender parity in classical music has been successful is a slightly moot point: here we see the rich ways the writing of these composers can enlighten and work alongside one another to bring out new perspectives on an instrument that has enjoyed a contemporary resurgence over the last century.