Brooklyn Rider’s Live Album ‘The Wanderer’ Feels Informed By Life in Flux

This album was recorded live in Eastern Lithuania just as bordering Ukraine bore the brunt of invasion

By Pat Moran | From the July-August 2023 issue of Strings Magazine

On the cinematic allegro of Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden,” Brooklyn Rider’s violins, viola, and cello sweep like a band of spectral cavaliers cutting a swath across swaying fields, suggesting nothing less than the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Recorded live in Eastern Lithuania just as bordering Ukraine bore the brunt of invasion, The Wanderer feels informed by life in flux. Here Brooklyn Rider’s violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords, and cellist Michael Nicolas tackle pieces by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov and Venezuelan composer/arranger Gonzalo Grau, as well as this dark masterwork of Schubert’s with customary gusto.


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The Wanderer, Brooklyn Rider, (In a Circle Records)
The Wanderer, Brooklyn Rider, (In a Circle Records)

Grau’s “Aroma a Distancia,” composed for Brooklyn Rider in 2020, embraces the composer’s peripatetic life with wavering violins and viola, suggesting traditional Venezuelan folk tunes and the boisterous improvisation of flamenco. Across five movements, Golijov’s “Um Dia Bom” (A Good Day), written for Brooklyn Rider in 2021, depicts a lifespan from cradle to the grave. With flashing pinpricks of violin skirting above rolling cello, “Pairando no Berço” suggests an infant observing the awe-inspiring yet uncertain wonders of the world. In “Cavalgando Com a Morte (Riding with Death),” the quartet’s seething strings pulse and slash, suggesting Vivaldi’s minor key “Winter” from The Four Seasons scored by Bernard Herrmann for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

“Death and the Maiden” 1. Allegro

With viola and violins ascending in harmonics that seem to dissolve in midair, Golijov’s final movement “Plim” (Feather) limns a denouement to the life depicted without providing closure. Similarly, a robust interpretation of Schubert’s nimble presto gallops to a conclusion with serpentine violin, groaning cello, and wavering viola, yet never seems to reach the finish line. It’s as if Brooklyn Rider has pulled a rug out from under its listeners, only to reveal a trapdoor waiting to be sprung.