Mainly Two - Squirrels in Matchboxes (2020)

Running time: 1 hr 4 min

CD with 6-page booklet

£10 (+ £2 P&P)

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Squirrels in Matchboxes is the third album from UK-based contemporary violin duo Mainly Two. Recorded live at Blank Studios, Newcastle upon Tyne, the record features new works from three British composers who straddle the border between jazz and classical music, as well as two free improvisations by the duo. From the playful to the melancholic, the brutal to the plain silly, Mainly Two are rejuvenating the world of two violins, summoning a universe of colour from eight strings.

 

“…captivating and inventive compositions - superbly played with an exceptional sense of beauty, imagination and fun”

 - Bradley Creswick, former concert master of Royal Opera House, Philharmonia and Royal Northern Sinfonia

In 1931, Béla Bartók composed his 44 Duos for Two Violins, a set of miniatures rooted in folk traditions spanning Eastern Europe, including numerous dances. Initially conceived as teaching pieces, Bartók's suite explores a broad array of textures achievable in the violin duo format. In Duo Dances, James Brady has begun a companion set which expands on Bartók's by drawing on musical forms beyond Eastern Europe and on an expanded palette of compositional techniques, including pictorial imagery, jazz and Latin American dance. In addition, musical games and puzzles feature heavily, both explicitly and implicitly. Similar to Bartók's suite, the pieces in Duo Dances can be performed individually, in groups or as a full set, and the order may be chosen by the performers themselves.

Kate Williams' Suite For Two Violins was written in 2015, shortly after the formation of her ensemble Four Plus Three, which features Schreer and Garner's Guastalla Quartet. The work was composed with Mainly Two's versatility and range of sound in mind. Movement 1 alternates between the rhythmic and the lyrical, with a nod to Bartók and Walton. Originally written for piano, the second movement is built around a somewhat relentless melodic fragment. An improvisatory section in the middle sees the violins assuming roles akin to soloist and rhythm section in a jazz tune. Movement 3, rubato, has the feel and form of a jazz ballad, and also exists as a piece for solo piano entitled Orchid Avenues. A lively 12/8 dance with greater rhythmic unanimity completes the suite, a brief reference to the opening theme of the first movement paving the way to the end.

Written between 2015 and 2018, each movement of John Garner's Four Seasons is dedicated to a loved one. Drawing on a wealth of experience across myriad artistic cultures, Garner explores a variety of textural, harmonic and rhythmic landscapes, presenting a fresh approach to a popular compositional template. The suite begins with Autumn, conjuring fragrant impressions of distant climes, with instructions for the violinists to play using unusual objects. Framed by wistful aleatoric episodes, the movement is built upon a cyclic harmonic sequence, looking to South East Asia for melodic inspiration. Winter mixes the old with the new, placing icy ponticello and tremolo figures alongside gently rolling ostinato and meandering counterpoint passages. Garner strikes a more buoyant tone in Spring, characterised by swift and angular patterns, Latin American rhythmic features, and angsty melodies. The name of the dedicatee is hidden somewhere in the movement. Summer floats along on warm impressionistic harmonies, sparkling with quicksilver melodic flourishes, before rounding off the suite with a presentation of the theme in compound time, nostalgic and bittersweet. 

Credits:

Performed by Mainly Two (Marie Schreer & John Garner)
Recorded on 30 October 2019 at Blank Studios, Newcastle upon Tyne
Recorded by John Martindale

Produced by Mainly Two and James Brady
Mixed and mastered by Josh Green
Released on 10th April 2020 on Turquoise Coconut (TCO015)

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