This recording of the Viola Music of David Jaeger features violist Elizabeth Reid and pianist Alison Bruce Cerutti, both prodigious artists on their instruments. The disc features spirited, occasionally restless performances that thrillingly capture the adrenalin rush of a live concert albeit the fact that it is a wonderfully produced studio recording. Needless to say, the disc is built, end-to-end, upon the ingenuity of David Jaeger as a maverick composer.
Tristan and Isolde – the first of two sonatas – favours flowing tempi, which is brilliantly executed by Ms. Reid and Ms. Cerruti. Soon, however, there is an even greater sense of spontaneity and elasticity. This is, of course in keeping with the character and idiomatic whimsy of Mr Jaeger’s compositional style employed in both sonatas, really.
Sonata No 1, a quite unique piece, starts off serenely indeed. Soon one becomes aware of a growing sense of ebullience. This is subtly signaled when in the second movement as liquid streams of notes gather into a gentle cascade, and reaches a fruition in the coda, which surges exultantly in the piece’s dénouement.
The Six Miniatures for Unaccompanied Viola are compositions inspired by the imagism of Scottish poet David Cameron’s dancing verse. Throughout the course of these short works there is an ebb and flow, a multiplicity of swirling currents – deftly traversed by Ms. Reid – that are somehow contained as an uninterrupted, unified body.
The second half of the disc is devoted to three works rather bold in their outreach as they feature the dark tone-textures of the viola stretched out against an electronic canvas created by a battery of [electronic] instruments.
On Constable and the Spirit of the Clouds [another work inspired by the English landscape painter in the Romantic tradition] Jaeger favours a brush-stroke kind of melodic line, daubed by some intricate figuration. Ms. Reid imbues her bow strokes in unison with Jaeger’s melodic pen, which shadows Constable’s brush. The ingenuity of this is quite affecting throughout the unfolding of the piece.
The composer seems to engage in in an interminable dance, unfolding elegantly on Sarabande. Viola and electronics come together in graceful embrace tackling the passagework with delicacy and intimacy. The resulting feeling of anticipation is exquisite. Ms. Reid’s playing delights with old-world and otherworldly charm.
The album closes with Favour which is, perhaps, the most ambitious melding of viola and electronics. Ms. Reid brings to her instrument a truly diverse tonal arsenal. The colourful melodic lines are rendered with silken legato. Dizzying stuttering double-stops and delays amplify the work’s texture and intensity.
When they appear together Ms. Reid and Ms. Cerutti seem perfectly suited to each other’s artistry, going for broke as they encounter Jaeger’s “outward-bound” work. Ms. Reid makes her viola spit and whine like a musician possessed. Ms. Cerutti, meanwhile, stabs at the music’s syncopations with bravura gusto. This is a disc that will sit proudly on any musical shelf.
YouTube Playlist – Conjuring: Viola Music of David Jaeger
Music – 1: Sonata, Tristan and Isolde  – I – Slowly, but with intensity; II – Allegro; III – Chanson, douce et sauvage; 2: Sonata No 1 for Viola and Piano  – I Introduction [calm, with flowing motion], II – Allegro bizzaro; III – Very hushed and slow – presto – coda; 3: Six Miniatures for Unaccompanied Viola  – I – Landscape, II – Evening, III – Conjure You, IV – For Winter, V – A Blessing; VI – Gifts; 4: Constable and the Spirit of the Clouds ; 5: Sarabande ; 6: Favour 
Musicians – Elizabeth Reid: va; Alison Bruce Cerutti: pf
Released – 2023
Label – RedShift Records [TK524]
Runtime – 49:04
Editor’s Note: On Friday, January 20, 2023, a Pre-Release Concert of Conjuring: Viola Music of David Jaeger took place at the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto. It was an enjoyable evening, in a very intimate setting, where we had the pleasure of listening to live performances of this album, and participating in a conversation about the project by David, Elizabeth and Alison. Photographs courtesy of Liam Jaeger.