Viola Concerto (1945)(completed Tibor Serly)
Movement for viola and orchestra (1955)
Kim Kashkashian (viola)
Netherlands Radio Chamber Orchestra/Peter Eötvös
ECM New Series 1711 465
ECM's visual design profile is one that avoids glamour and superficiality
and instead is understated and monochrome. Consonant with this is a loyalty
to the music. It is reflective of this devotion that the notes here constitute
a detailed historical survey of the history of the Bartok Concerto and sufficient
information about the other two works.
Kashkashian seems to have been associated with the ECM label for many years
- although she is still a young player. It is great credit to her that she
is prepared to dedicate herself to music of such determinedly unfashionable
music as that offered on this CD. She reminded me of the young violinist
who has recorded Schnittke and Weill on the Nimbus label and did this as
his recording premiere.
Her playing is notable for her dead true intonation and flare. This is heard,
together with considerable concentration. The Bartok Viola concerto is Cinderella
work dogged by the fact that is for an instrument seen as low-profile and
unassertive and by the fact that it is not 'pure' Bartok. Kashkashian
concentratedly projects a work that is busy and lyrically garrulous. Until
we get to the finale there are no great gestures. The whole is shot through
with the exile's sorrow. Rage has long fallen away. The finale is a typical
wild Bartokian dance (Concerto for Orchestra being a clear reference point).
I rather felt that the finale was misplaced. Would Bartok have considered
continuing the gently undulating sorrow of the first two movements if left
with sufficient time to finish and revise the work?
The Eotvos is dissonant, resinous and rosiny. It is amplified by a very close
recording which accentuates the modernism and discontinuity of a score which
recalls Schnittke as well as using exclamatory gestures and skewing, swerving
violin figures out of Penderecki.
The Kurtag is easier to take: not as angular as the Eotvos. A refracted image
of a Bach fugue and of the Double Violin Concerto with Hungarian influences
its image is helped by a more natural perspective for what must have been
an augmented chamber orchestra.
A brave and peppery collection which will appeal to pursuers of the
avant-garde as much as to dedicated Bartokians.