Vito Palumbo – Woven Lights

Vito Palumbo – Woven Lights
4 of 5 stars

Violin Concerto

Chaconne: (i)Woven Lights, (ii) The Glows in the Dark

London Symphony Orchestra
Lee Reynolds

Francesco D’Orazio (violin & electric violin)
Francesco Abbrescia (live electronics)

Recorded at Abbey Road Studio 1, London on September 17, 2016 (Violin Concerto) and Mola di Bara, Italy, January 19-20, 2021 (Woven Lights)

Reviewed by: David Truslove

Reviewed: July 2023
CD No: BIS 2625
Duration: 58:15



This recent disc from Italian composer Vito Palumbo (born 1972) is the second of two CDs of orchestral works issued by BIS. The first from 2018, featured a trio of concertos for cello, harpsichord, and recorder.  Each piece, including those within this recording, reflects Palumbo’s preoccupation with orchestral timbre and texture in works for soloist and symphony orchestra. In the booklet that accompanies the CD, the composer indicates these largescale works share “an organic idea of interconnected and interdependent formal moments and gestures, like a network of neural connections”.

Lasting some 30 minutes and conceived across a single span, the Violin Concerto (2015) occupies an arch-like structure set in motion by low, percussion-led sonorities. Within the accumulating tension and before the soloist’s first entry, the composer says that a small melodic cell is introduced and “presented repeatedly, often without any kind of alteration, from which an episodic path unfolds”. Thereafter, blocks of sound build and subside, the work’s sectionalised design catching the ear for its bold imaginative timbres (always transparent and never intruding on the soloist) that support idiomatic violin writing across a changing landscape that reminds the listener of of Berio, Berg and Henze. A sense of drama and purpose is evident throughout, even when the score seems to stand still following a poignant oboe entry signalling an expressive soliloquy. Altogether, an eventful work where interest is sustained as much by its ever-changing timbres, as is the assurance and sensitivity of violinist Francesco D’Orazio. Under the guiding hand of conductor Lee Reynolds, whose ear for detail is second to none, the London Symphony Orchestra are adroit and sympathetic collaborators.

Colour, or at least timbre, takes on a more contemporary dimension in Palumbo’s two-part Woven Lights (2019-20), of which the opening Chaconne is scored for a 5-string electric violin, sampled sounds and electronics. Duties are shared between D’Orazio (electric violin) and Francesco Abbrescia (electronic realisation). According to the booklet, the score “carefully indicates the different ways in which the electronics should intertwine with the live electric violin”. How much that helps the listener is anyone’s guess, and I will take Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto’s word that the “principle of variation, the essence of the chaconne, is retained in the first part of the piece”. 

Whatever advanced technical devices are employed; Woven Lights is a richly conceived amalgam of actual and computer-generated sounds, accruing in interest across its 18-minute span, and amply illustrating Palumbo’s theatrical instincts. No less involving is the equally atmospheric The Glows in the Dark for electric violin and 30 pre-recorded electric violin parts, where overlapping parts anchor fragmented solo writing to create an intriguing and at times hallucinogenic soundscape. 

Overall, a fascinating release that offers stimulating listening coupled with an impressively clean sound. 

1 thought on “Vito Palumbo – Woven Lights”

  1. Gianni Morelenbaum Gualberto

    I understand the misgivings about certain considerations in the booklet. I was fortunate enough to work with the score well in mind, so I was forced to take certain conclusions for granted. Keeping two things going at the same time (we say: “to give one blow to the rim and one to the barrel”) is an all-Italian ability that in this case failed me. Trust me anyway…! But I am glad you still liked the music: that is the most important thing.

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