Michael Alec: Rose Il Ritorno

review ritorno rose x1 cong

This rather wonderful CD is an impressionist description of landscape using only violin and viola; perhaps not the most promising of descriptions but it is engrossing and draws in the listener.

The sleeve notes are fun to read and help with the listening. Michael Alec Rose is (apparently) a leading light in the contemporary music world with compositions in many genres. He now lives in Tennessee, where he teaches, but has obviously lived in Dorset and fallen in love with Devon, specifically Dartmoor.

In his notes, Rose varies between trying to explain his thought processes, sometimes in a more than abstract way (Coming Home To The World is a “movement to grasp the fact that we belong here on Earth, that the universe is our home address”), other times more prosaically: Unturned Stones, looks at the old saying “leave no stone unturned”, balanced with the fact that in Tennessee it is impossible to turn over a stone without disturbing a lizard, snake, or colony of insects. “Leaving stones unturned supports both personal safety and ecological sanity,” he writes. He also reveals a fondness for appalling puns: “Dartmoor is a landscape whose contours have been … taken for granite.” Groan.

Anyone who knows the area can envisage his journey from Hardy’s Dorset to Dartmoor, one a dry land of heath, the other a mysterious one of tors and running water (or “Dorset gave way to tor-set, Dorchester to tor-chaser” as Mr Terrible Pun has it).

The musicians are Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin) Diana Mathews (viola) so while it’s a sparse sound, it’s rich in content, and Sheppard Skærved never does anything less than world class. Although modern, it has a classical feel and in places possesses the solemnity of early religious music (Rose mentions Buddhism and Judaism) as it describes various forms. These are not only the landscapes of unturned stones and granite tors but also of paintings and statues, the former being Frank Auerbach’s Mornington Crescent-Early Morning and the latter some “diaphanously-clad” Nereids in the British Museum, whose “grace, movement and anti-gravitational field” Rose tries to capture.

It’s low on melody but there’s none of that modern jarring violin and it’s evocative. It’s written about Dartmoor, but it could equally be any landscape to which the listener feels affinity; it worked well while picturing the Roaches or even parts of the Cheshire Plain. Moody music for sure, but worth investigating.

This is out on Divine Art’s Metier label, MSV28574.

Buy direct from the nice people at Divine:


Or go to Amazon if you must:

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