“Zoë Martlew, an English composer who had conducted an amusing, hour-long public interview with Mr. Ayres on Thursday afternoon, had pride of place at the Friday concert, which began with her “Völuspá” (2018), a string trio inspired by the “Poetic Edda,” the ancient anthology of stories about the Norse gods.
“Völuspá,” the poem that opens the collection, presents the Norse creation myth. But Ms. Martlew’s music avoids easy pictorialism. Instead, she evokes the tale’s philosophical spirit in a spare, slow-moving texture in which repeated, slowly morphing pizzicato figures in each instrument are interrupted by the glassy tone of sustained artificial harmonics. A bowed section that closes the piece is more overtly melodic, but equally sober, until the final pages, in which the music rises to a plangent emotional peak.
Ms. Martlew played the cello with Chi Li, a violinist, and Samuel Pedersen, a violist—both student fellows at Tanglewood’s educational arm, the Tanglewood Music Center, which presents the festival. The center’s students, faculty and occasional guests (like Ms. Martlew) do all the performing. Given the students’ heavy workload, which also includes chamber and orchestral concerts of standard repertory, the consistently high level of the new-music performances is always a pleasant surprise”
The Millbrook Independent
Composer Zoë Martlew played cello in a string trio named Voluspa, a 2018 composition that cleared the first fence as a new voice and went on to a clear round as a totally satisfactory piece that sustained our interest (fence number two) and clearing the higher hurdle of sustained meaning. She described the piece as a conversation between the three gods of time, time past, time present and time future. She also mentioned the paradox of describing the absence of the presence of a lost friend. Her language was that of the musical abstract—minimal without being absurdly so. She invites us to hear the sounds of the rolling hills of Dorset, the sounds of ancient stones, a tonal landscape. I was enchanted.”