MICHAEL HERSCH (b.1971): Carrion-Miles to Purgatory for Violin and Cello, Music for Violin and Piano, ... das Rückgrat berstend for Violin/Voice and Cello.
Catalogue Number: 07V062
Label: New Focus Recordings
Description: Hersch's music occupies itself with aspects of the darkest side of human experience (08U067, 03T077, 05Q093), and Carrion-Miles to Purgatory (as you might surmise from the title) is no exception. A fifty minute duo in thirteen movements, it is based on fragments of the poetry of Robert Lowell (1917-77), the New England modern poet who, like Eliot and Pound, forged a new way of using language to express the previously inexpressible. In Lowell's case, this was decay, literal in death, moral, and that of institutions - social and religious - that had failed their purpose; the ambiguity of God and the unbearable burden of history and heritage. All of this seen through the prism of his own fractured mental state; manic-depressive, he was hospitalized repeatedly throughout his adult life. The imagery of his writing is, to say the least, bleak, disturbing, visceral and sometimes violent - just like Hersch's music, for which it is thus a natural fit. Each section of the work is prefaced by some lines from Lowell's early collection "Lord Weary's Castle" (the title, pithily encapsulating decay, Catholic guilt and hopelessness, is one of them). The music does not illustrate the specific texts so much as react to them, creating a minutely textured and detailed landscape of desolation and introspective despair. The pieces traverse a wide expressive and technical territory, from whispering chords to oases of fragile, spectral beauty, to clustered screams from the abyss. The work is meticulously structured and minutely annotated; the fluidity of memory and perception are treated in other of Hersch's pieces, and here the fifth movement contains premonitions of later ones, which are then eerily familiar when they occur in context. Miranda Cuckson (violin), Jay Campbell (cello), Michael Hersch (piano), Patricia Kopatchinskaya (violin/voice).