I love modern classical music and the 2022’s finest example of the genre dropped just last month. Missing Island, the French chamber duo Snowdrops’ third album, may have arrived late in the year, but it was unquestionably worth waiting for. In my review for Louder Than War, I described it as “dramatic and emotive…never predictable, never mundane”.
Snowdrops are the supremely talented multi-instrumentalists, Christine Ott and Mathieu Gabry and for Missing Island they are joined by viola virtuoso, Anne-Irène Kempf, thus reprising the line-up behind their 2020 debut, Volutes. Last year’s Inner Fires, which featured only the duo, was an excellent collection, however, to my ear, the addition of Kempf’s atmospheric strings brings another dimension to Snowdrops’ music.
Like Joel Ross’s The Parable Of The Poet, which featured behind window four of this year’s Musical Advent, Missing Island is a musical fresco in seven movements. Perhaps I have a thing about that number. Nonetheless, just like Ross’s album, Missing Island’s frescoes each vividly tell their own story whilst remaining true to the central theme.
If you are short of time and looking for highlights to pick out, I can recommend the eerie and haunting soundtrack that is Firebirds. Ott is probably the world’s finest exponent of that bastard offspring of the keyboard family, the ondes Martenot, and on Firebirds she utilises it fully to create the canvas upon which her collaborators can flourish. It is exquisite, however the album’s stand-out track, its tour de force, is Comme Un Souffle Qui Vient. Ott’s wheezing hand-pumped organ provides a mesmerising counterpoint with Gabry’s looping piano motif. When Kempf’s viola sweeps in, you are lost to it.
Missing Island is a very special album, one that is perfectly suited to this time of year with its dark, cold, winter evenings. So, relax. Grab yourself a drink, stare into the lights of the Christmas tree and let this wondrous achievement wash all over you.