Sketchbook of a Journey

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8 Beautiful

"It feels like you stepped into a Monet painting."

Sketchbook of a Journey

Vero Duo: Gretchen Cover, harp; and Miguel Bonachea, guitar. World Premier Recordings, 2017.

Vero Duo’s new disc, Sketchbook of a Journey, is all original music written by Anthony Sidney, a composer who arranges notes like a painter applies paint. A guitarist, Sidney has an affinity for the point on the color spectrum where the two plucked instruments—harp and guitar—meet, but also where they diverge slightly, to have just the touch of spice remain distinct. Harpist Grethchen Chell Cover and guitarist Miguel Bonachea use their carefully honed sensibility to make the colors pop.

Beautiful is the word I would choose to describe this music. Not only easy on the ears, but also not overly challenging. It feels like you stepped into a Monet painting. This music sparkles like the energy in the air. It has an intrinsic fizziness to it, like a charge of electrons. And just like Monet, the two instruments narrow their tools of choice to that of chalk or pastels. Think Odilon Redon—many of his works so fragile, they are displayed far from the bright light of day and shown individually behind glass in a small gallery to be seen by only a few people at once. This is the type of delicate intimacy of this CD, a diversion happily welcomed in an increasingly stressful world.

One favorite is “From a Chinese Waterfall.”  This gentle piece is reminiscent of a memory one might have of a waterfall viewed from the safety of a bridge far from the action. Again, it’s as if Sidney takes his cue from an ancient scroll, with the falls drawn in ink and characters bustling about doing chores, harnessing the water, and enjoying their place within this pastoral setting.

The Sonata is delectable, each movement uniquely titled: “The Glass Vase with Butterflies,” “A Portrait of Parsifal,” “Chalice of Mystery,” “Light Dark Light,” and finally “Returning to Future’s Past.” Is it the listener who needs a clue of a narrative or the composer? This is not “pure” music, but I do think the suggestive words allow for some distinction between the many vignettes, which otherwise, appealing as they are, might verge on too much sameness.

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About Author

Alison Young is a classical music host and producer at Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media. She left a successful career as a flutist a decade ago after she developed a neurological disorder, but before then enjoyed many years traveling the world giving recitals, performing concertos, playing with some of the finest orchestras, and recording her own discs. Nowadays, Young spins discs and is always on the lookout for the next best thing. You can contact her at ayoung@mpr.org.

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