Many know Nico Muhly by now as one of the 21st century pop music's leading composers and arrangers, and while fewer may be familiar with Nadia Sirota's name, if you've heard much of Muhly's work, you've probably heard Sirota's playing. They've both worked with indie rock's brightest, including Grizzly Bear, the National and such, and Sirota has played on all four albums in Muhly's Bedroom Community discography.
This long-running friendship and professional relationship is at the heart of their latest recording, Keep in Touch. The record is named after a composition that originally appeared on 2006's Speaks Volumes and has been reworked here; both versions featuring Sirota's viola. The gaps between the times of writing and recording different parts of this record pose no threat to its continuity — it's (very literally) like seeing an old friend after a while and picking up right where you left off.
The concerto is a more recent composition, a piece of rare, melodic beauty. Muhly and Sirota's music goes straight for the heart without sacrificing any sophistication along the way. " Viola Concerto Part I" opens with a bright and airy juxtaposition of held chords and pizzicato sprinkles before diving into rambunctious interplay between Sirota and the rest of the orchestra. The earnest viola sometimes pleads for space amidst the busy orchestra, perhaps evoking the trials of maintaining friendships over time, distance and hectic schedules.
"Part II" and "III" follow the viola through more unpredictable terrain, sometimes with trepidation, sometimes with abandon. By the time the closer, "Keep in Touch," comes around, we're ready for the lush and moving climax to weave our heartstrings back together.