Lara Downes channels the collective artistry of the feminine / New Music Buff
Lara Downes has proven herself as a virtuoso pianist in solo, chamber, and with orchestra. She has demonstrated facility with standard repertoire as well as an intelligent selection of contemporary composers. In this sort of mid-career place she has begun releasing a more personal kind of album of which this is the third incarnation. The "series' to which I refer is the perception of this reviewer, not one defined as such by Ms. Downes but stick with me. Her previous releases have been organized on one level or another on themes just like most album of any stripe. The difference is a more sociopolitical focus.
One look at the eclectic musical choices here and one sees Downes sharing her spotlight with kindred spirits (composers and performers both) while her themes take on more socially conscious ideas. The first of these was America Again (2016) which is a beautiful collection of short piano pieces predominantly though not exclusively by black composers. It is a very personal choice of repertoire reflecting her profound knowledge of the repertoire as well as the neglect of black composers. The second was Lenny (2018), a tribute to Leonard Bernstein. It includes a marvelously varied group of guest artists and, much as Lenny did, blurs the line between the "classical" and the "vernacular". It was a love song to a cherished artist (this writer included in the cherishing).
She does something similar here in this album whose title is taken, appropriately enough, from Georgia O'Keefe, "I want real things, live people to take hold of, to see, and talk to, music that makes holes in the sky, I want to love as hard as I can." In the essay that opens the program booklet Downes speaks briefly of her relationship with women in general and women as composers and as performers.