What is the feeling of reaching a summit? That’s Pat Jaffe on the top of the rock, but we’re happy to report that Aidan Filshie made it to the peak as well. The pianist and violist have been playing together since primary school, while sharing a love for the great outdoors; Fishie is a cyclist and Jaffe a trail runner. The fact that neither seems winded is evidence either of being in shape or ascending a mountain that is smaller than it appears. Either way, there’s a sense of accomplishment involved, as there is whenever one reaches a summit, whether physical, personal or professional.
The title track reflects the experience of ascension, from gentle beginnings to purposeful climb. Their interplay sounds like friendship, as the musicians gracefully alternate leads between passages of mutual support. The physical climb may serve as a symbol of friends who go their separate ways and pursue their own interests, then reunite and pick up where they left off. The excitement of the summit is conveyed in the fifth minute, as the viola seems to jump up and down, reveling in the mutual accomplishment. At 5:50 the notes all take a breath, described by the artists as “a moment of stillness.” Those who have climbed will recognize the peace of the horizon, of resting feet, of being higher than the birds.
The other compositions may be “companion pieces,” but work well as a set. “Threshold” reflects a walk through the streets of Siena, Italy, while “Descent” traces a walk of the mind. Each yields a feeling of hiraeth, especially the latter, in which Jaffe recalls a forest he explored in his childhood amid the devastation of Australian bushfires. It’s tempting to flip the pieces, as the first speaks of a peak, the second a plateau and the third an emotional valley. But mixed into the final piece, there is also gratitude for formative experiences, even when their geography is marred. In a way, the triumph over feelings of loss may be termed an even more significant summit; the emotions are still raw (as portrayed in the second minute), but new life is already springing from the scarred earth. Accepting life’s cycles is harder than climbing a small mountain, but more meaningful. Just prior to the peaceful ending, the piano is playing faster than ever, the viola is singing, the friends are reunited and the sun is beginning to rise. (Richard Allen)