by Steve Hicken

On her new album Invisible Colors (get it from Amazon), Miranda Cuckson continues to explore the complex side of the violin’s recent and not-so-recent repertoire with persuasive performances of solo pieces by Brian Ferneyhough, Elliott Carter, and Stefan Wolpe. As was the case with her other recent recordings (reviewed here, here, and here), the playing is highly assured and richly expressive.

Cuckson’s approach to Brian Ferneyhough’s daunting music seems to be to open it up, to allow the music to breathe. It’s interesting to note that at 10:15, her performance of the Intermedia alla ciaccona is about three minutes longer than Irvine Arditti’s recording, without sacrificing a bit of intensity. It, as well as the 18:06 performance of his Unsichtbare Farben that opens the disc, highlight Cuckson’s vibrant playing and easy mastery of the rapid shifts in (especially) register and color.

Elliott Carter is one of my favorite composers. I experience his music as a sequence of gestures that outline an expressive arc over the course of a piece. Ms. Cuckson’s approach to the four short pieces (“Statement: Remembering Aaron,” “Risconscenza per Goffredo Petrazzi,” “Rhapsodic Musings” and “Fantasy: Remembering Roger”) that make up his Four Lauds feeds that way of listening.

I’m much less familiar with Stefan Wolpe’s work. The two pieces given here, “Two Parts for Violin Alone” and “Second Piece for Violin Alone,” exhibit the serious lightness that is such an important part of late Modernism. Ms Cuckson’s lively performances make a great case for the music.

As is usual for her discs, Ms. Cuckson writes detailed and helpful program notes that provide an entry way into this often difficult music. The production, by Ms. Cuckson and Gene Gaudette, is also excellent, with a spacious sound and warm presence.

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