CD review: Kate Whitley’s I Am I Say

First published in the Guardian on 30 March, 2017

Kate Whitley: I Am I Say
Multi-Story Orchestra/Stark etc (NMC)

Kate Whitley co-founded the Multi-Story Orchestra in a car park in Peckham with several intentions, chief among them getting an audience closer to the music they were hearing and far away from ingrained listening habits of the concert hall. A similar drive seems to underpin the unpretentious, appealingly vigorous and visceral music she writes. This debut portrait album showcases Whitley, who is not yet 30, as a lush harmonist, an orchestrator who handles instruments boldly — the Viola Concerto flings about from rapt quiet passages to thronging strings — and a melodist who isn’t afraid of big rhapsodic elegies. The performances are direct and excellent: Rolf Hind is full of conviction in the now bruising, now effervescent Five Piano Pieces; Eloisa-Fleur Thom and Asher Zaccardelli are all glint and shimmer in the Duo for Violin and Viola; Shiry Rashkovsky charges fearlessly through the Viola Concerto’s squalls. In the title piece for orchestra, school choirs and soloists, Whitley takes up the noble tradition of writing rousing, robust music for children that takes its young performers seriously.