Introducing the album is Lee Actor’s Duo for Violin and Cello. The track, which won the Eva Thompson Phillips Award for Composition in 1979, is a short, textured, and powerful piece. In ABA form, the energy of the stringed instruments swings like a parabola from the height of sharp, angular rhythms down into deep and gentle expressions and builds up to a sharp, explosive climax.
Contrasting with this minimal violin-cello duo, Peter Greve’s Aria is slow and expansive. The composer pairs the trumpet and organ, mastering the interweaving of the brass instrument’s long slurring path around the subtle foundation laid by the keys.
The sonata Marian is a composition created by Steven Kennedy. Kennedy’s composition represents a polyptych of the Life of Jesus Christ, interpreted through the grace of the violin and piano. In four carefully composed pieces, Kennedy guides the listener through Christ’s beginnings (“Advent l’enfant”), alongside Christ as he walks to the cross (“Lento Doloroso”), the thunderous early stages of the movement of his tomb (“Resurrectio”), and finally the arrival of the Holy Spirit (“Jubilatio Spiritu”).
Sidney Bailin employs jazz influences in Blue Plea. Writing for clarinet, the tone of the piece is influenced by the 2nd movement of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet. Though the atmosphere of the piece often feels improvisational, the careful calculation of Bailin’s every note creates a story, one of sorrow and pleading, that introduces subjects and counter-subjects through his use of riffs.
The last track of the album, Allen Brings’ Duo for Flute and Piano, closes the album with three movements. Echoing some of the themes of J.S. Bach’s inventions, the flute and piano create a relationship that is at once contentious and allied. The composition creates a back-and-forth between the two instruments like a game of tag, influencing each others’ performances in both moments of softness and ferocity.