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The Art of the Viola
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Viola Sonata Op.11 No.4 (1919) [16:03]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Duo for viola and cello in E flat major ‘with two Eyeglasses’ WoO 32 (1796-97) [13:14]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Märchenerzählungen for clarinet, viola and piano Op.132 (1853) [13:59]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Passacaglia from Harpsichord Suite No.7 HWV 432 (arr. Johan Halvorsen) [7:39]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Lachrymae (Reflections on a Song of Dowland) for viola and piano Op.48 (1950) [13:41]
Heinrich Koll (viola)
Madoka Inui (piano); Peter Schmidl (clarinet); Alexandra Koll (violin); Milan Karanovic (cello)
rec. May 2004, ORF Funkaus, Vienna, Studio 2
NAXOS 8.557606 [65:01]
Experience Classicsonline

All the performers here are members of the Vienna Philharmonic under which rubric the series is presented as a series title: Philharmonic Soloists. The orchestra’s principal violist is Heinrich Koll and he is featured in this disc devoted to wide ranging repertoire which democratically includes Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen.

As I listened to the Handel-Halvorsen I noted down a few words; elegant, precise, nuanced, tactful and discreet were some. Koll and his violinist daughter Alexandra play with taste and clarity. The pert pizzicato passage is well judged. There’s something missing though. It’s all just a little too neat and there are touches of mannerism. Is the swell on the last note justified?

Hindemith’s Sonata does sound a bit bluff and under-inflected after the generous lyricism of the classic Primrose/Sanromá (on Biddulph). Koll’s greater linearity means that there are fewer overt contrasts. This terser approach is exacerbated by a fastish vibrato. For my own taste I regret a lack of the greater expressive magnitude of the older pairing, though I happily concede it’s a performance predicated on logic and proficiency. Primrose was always laudatory of a performance he gave with Britten of Lachrymae in which he admired what was between the cracks as it were, what wasn’t notated. It’s a moving but difficult work to get across, and its culminatory unfolding of Dowland’s song must emerge naturally from within the fabric of the writing. This one is finely textured and convincing, though without quite the last ounce of tonal fibre.

No complaints about the Beethoven where the playing is genial, the ensemble solid, and the sonority warm and rich. In the Schumann Koll is joined by Madoka Inui and the eminent figure of Peter Schmidl. These three experienced plays have an excellent rapport. Balances are finely judged; dynamics are excellent. The ethos is mellifluous and affectionate. Inui plays a full part, ensuring rhythmic snap when required, and strong chording elsewhere. This is all fluent and elegant, and very pleasing.

Jonathan Woolf 




























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