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Claus OGERMANN (b. 1930)
Works for Violin and Piano
Sarabande-Fantasie (1990) [14:32]
Duo lirico (1986) [27:52]
Preludio and Chant (1979) [18:35]
Nightwings (1975) [4:18]
Yue Deng (violin)
Jean-Yves Thibaudet (piano)
rec. Capitol Studios, Los Angeles, 18-19 February 2006
DECCA 475 8400 [65:22]

This disc is a lesson for this reviewer not to judge a recording by its cover, or in this instance, a postage stamp-sized sticker on the jewel case, no doubt put there on instruction of various marketers at Decca.  The packaging for this release is rather sleek, with minimal yet significant imagery of just-about-to-break horsehair, which, though evocative, gives little indication to the cool and pensive music found on the disc.  The sticker touts Claus Ogermann as a Grammy award-winning arranger for Barbra Streisand and Diana Krall.  The connotations of such a sticker give absolutely no indication of the contents of the recording and, no doubt, those who really love Krall and Streisand might be similarly misled.  In my case, I was quite pleasantly surprised.  In the instance of some Krall and Streisand fans, there may be some less positive reactions.
Past the packaging and so forth, what we have here is a series of works, many of which have been previously recorded on smaller labels - for example the Preludio and Chant was recorded on mobile Fidelity with Gidon Kremer back in 1981 - evocatively performed.  The music is uncompromising and serious, a far cry from what many would think of when hearing Krall or Streisand.  What’s on this disc is from the sound world of Hindemith, as the liner-notes indicate, but also of Ravel’s violin sonata. With the sonorous violin part of the Sarabande-Fantasie that begins this disc, we hear aspects of Nikolai Roslavets’ violin sonatas (see review).  The piece, almost fifteen minutes in length, gives the violin a narrative line, under which the piano shifts darkly with low chords or single notes.  The mood lightens as the work comes to a close, with a held high note and a brighter resolution intoned by the piano.  This has been a piece I’ve returned to often and enjoy quite a bit.
The Duo lirico of four years earlier certainly lives up to its name, particularly the lovely and dreamlike third movement, with the violin beautifully winging its way over the piano part, which consists mostly of ascending arpeggiated chords.  There are times, especially in the final part of this movement, that even bring Satie to mind, if briefly.  The opening movement has more drive, with its syncopations over a repeated A, which acts as its elevated heartbeat.  Again, dark colorations in the piano part predominate, adding a sense of gravity to the lovely bird-flight of the violin part.
Speaking of things avian, the closing piece, entitled Nightwings, would be the closest tie to Krall and Streisand that their fans will find on this disc.  Originally recorded by jazz violinist Joe Venuti in 1975, it begins with night-weary jazz chords almost reminiscent of Bacharach, but the singing violin line puts them in a very different context.  The closing movement of Duo lirico aside, all of the pieces on this disc evoke a certain wistful solitude, as one might feel while staring through glass at a city glittering at night.
Preludio and Chant of 1979 is introduced emphatically by the piano.  With downward-marching chords, Thibaudet gives the floor to Deng.  In the first section of this piece the piano maintains a consistent presence with a flowing figure before the chant section.  This is heralded by a reappearance of the dense descending chords in the piano.  From there, the tone is more sparse, with a return to what appears to be Ogermann’s trademark sound; that of a soaring narrative line played by the violin, held to earth by the pensive tone clusters of the piano. 
This disc was a surprise for this reviewer and will certainly be finding itself in playback for some time after this review is written.  The recording aesthetic is clean and suitably intimate.  Deng does very well to let the melodic lines soar, and Thibaudet sounds perfectly at home. Recommended, especially for fans of Hindemith and Ravel.
David Blomenberg

see also review by Kevin Sutton



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