Composers: Aristéa Mellos
Performers: Helen Zhibing Huang s, James Larsen vc, Ada Arumeh Kim Lowery p, Jane Bishop fl
Catalogue Number: Xenophone, available on bandcamp
Songs for a Day is a dreamy compilation of art songs by Crete-born Australian composer Aristéa Mellos. As a broad theme, the album explores life and death – but the pieces and cycles touch upon the deeper complexities of our experiences between. It’s an unusual release that’s at once unnerving and awe-inspiring. Though Mellos provides extensive notes explaining the meaning of her works spanning 2013 to 2019, the music can be understood regardless of the context this provides. However, it does strengthen the listener’s appreciation of just how much consideration has been invested into the compositions – from the technical to the emotive and thematic.
Prelude opens gently as pianist Ada Arumeh Kim Lowery gives a thoughtful approach to Mellos’ Debussy-inspired piece. The composer writes that Prelude functions as a “Song Without Words”, which arrives before La Tessitrice in which soprano Helen Zhibing Huang joins. Louriana Lourilee is a “gothic epic ballad”, which gradually unfolds from softness into waves of strength and beauty, particularly among the piano lines – here reminiscent of the cinematic period music of Dario Marianelli. The Songs of Resignation suite of four pieces weaves the works of Alexandrian Greek poet Constantine Cavafy with dissonant but superb harmonies.
James Larsen’s solo cello welcomes in Athena, a grim and eerie song dealing explicitly with life and death; while the concluding Songs for a Day sees flautist Jane Bishop join the ensemble for a three-part cycle about a woman losing herself in the flow of domesticity.