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As the world tries to cope with the coronavirus and all of the implications, I have been thinking about the freelance musicians whose lives have been turned upside down by the necessary curtailment of public gatherings and the consequent cancellation of their performance dates and their livelihood. Duo Kalysta, comprising flautist Lara Deutsch and harpist Emily Belvedere was promoting their first album, Origins, when the pandemic crossed off any upcoming dates on their calendars.
This album deserves your attention and these two young award-winning artists deserve your support. Based out of Toronto, Emily Belvedere performs regularly as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral harpist. The Ottawa native Lara Deutsch was recently named one of BBC’s Rising Stars and is the recipient of the 2019 prestigious Prix Goyer, Canada’s largest prize for a classical musician. As much as I had heard about these two performers, I was not ready for what I heard on this amazing album.
Deutsch and Belvedere formed a duo while studying together at McGill University 8 years ago. The two prize winning musicians have maintained their partnership since then despite living in different cities and at times at opposite sides of the country. Origins was born during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2016. They took the next three years conducting research, writing grant applications, finding a producer and putting the marketing plan together. It was recorded in what Deutsch called the most intense and rewarding four days of her life. She told me that her dream of recording something of her own planning and artistic vision came to life with each moment of the recording session.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 30th 2020
Origins (album cover); Photo credit: Brent Calis
Flute, harp and two award-winning artists…Duo Kalysta’s album of heavenly music!
Origins begins with Debussy’s stunning Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune arranged for flute and harp by Judy Loman. The music displays the heavenly sound that only a flute and harp together can achieve. The famous solo flute opening of the Debussy is intoxicating with its subtle vibrato and endlessly long phrase. One can’t help but be drawn in by the beauty of Deutsch’s tone. As soon as I heard these opening notes and the harp arpeggios that follow, I knew that this album would be special. While the orchestral part performed on the harp is immensely challenging, there is an ease in the sound of Belvedere’s playing, reflecting Debussy’s imagery. Duo Kalysta has a rare synergy in finding the right spirit for this music.
Another of Canada’s leading composers, Jocelyn Morlock’s music is often an exploration of sound colours and Vespertine is no exception. The title refers to night-blossoming flowers. In the first, “Twilight”, nature is reflected in the dark sounds of the flute’s low registers with the contrasting high staccato punctuations of the harp. Part of the first movement is performed on the alto flute. There is no doubt that the music evokes a serene image of the natural world. The second, “Verdigris” refers to the green colour of oxidized copper. It begins with the harp in a steady walking motive and is joined by the flute in tranquil counterpoint. Images come to mind of flowing water and waterfowl flying overhead. The Duo has performed this very listenable music for several years; it has clearly found a special place in their hearts.
The final work on the album is a flute showstopper! French composer André Jolivet’s 1944 work Chant de Linos is a virtuosic tour de force for flute that staggers the imagination: no more of the angelic impressionistic sounds. Deutsch has often performed the work in the flute/piano arrangement, but on this album, they chose to do the arrangement for string trio, harp and flute. The timbre of the strings adds a bite to the energy. Joining Duo Kalysta are Alexander Read, violin, Marina Thibeault, viola, and Carmen Bruno, cello. The work is full of drama and intensity; the climactic ending is spellbinding. It leaves no question as to the virtuosity of Deutsch and the entire ensemble.
Deutsch and Belvedere continue to work on new projects in separate cities during this time of social distancing. They are not sitting idle, however. Belvedere has added online teaching to her mostly aborted schedule. You will be able to see and hear Deutsch with guitarist Adam Cicchillitti in a livestream on Friday, April 24th at 2pm EDT. as part of the National Arts Centre’s “Canada Performs” initiative, recently created in partnership with Facebook to relieve financial strain for Canadian artists during this stressful time of cancellations. At the same time, they are planning concerts and tours for the fall.
Origins is available on all streaming services. Alternatively, the album may be purchased as a CD and download at duokalysta.com.
Duo Kalysta: Lara Deutsch and Emily Belvedere; Photo credit: Brent Calis