Eliesha Nelson

Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works

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Even though Quincy Porter: Complete Viola Works presents a respectable number of short character pieces and diversions, the selection of greatest interest is the Viola Concerto (1948), surely the strongest reason to listen to this impressive debut release by violist Eliesha Nelson. She makes a powerful argument for this brooding neo-Classical concerto's entry into the viola's repertoire, performing with unflagging energy and sustained lyricism throughout a work that scarcely gives the soloist a rest. Composed in a style that seems to employ Stravinsky's quirky harmonies and Copland's modality, and featuring the laconic counterpoint that typifies much of Porter's mature music, the Viola Concerto is nonetheless quite accessible and enjoyable, if not exactly lovable for any memorable melodies or colorful orchestration. Still, this is a major work for violists to consider adding to their small body of concertos, because the solo part is especially challenging and rewarding. The remainder of the program is filled with short works for viola in pairings with piano, harp, or harpsichord, in duet with violin, and unaccompanied, and the writing is more varied and perhaps more ingratiating in these pieces for both the performers and listeners. Dorian's reproduction is fairly dry and airless in the Viola Concerto, but the sound opens up in the chamber recordings with attractive resonance and spaciousness.

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