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Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Sonata for Violin and Cello (1920/22)
Felix TREIBER (b.1960)

Six Intermezzi (2002)
Zoltán KODÁLY (1882-1967)

Duo for Violin and Cello Op.7 (1914)
Diana Drechsler (violin)
Thomas Gieron (cello)
Recorded in Badischen Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, May 2003
ANTES EDITION BM CD 31.9190 [64.14]

The Ravel and Kodaly are classics of the duo repertoire and have been coupled on disc before, not least by Nigel Kennedy and Lynn Harrell recently on EMI. The Treiber is a premiere recording of a piece written in 2002. That said these are works that are difficult to programme, both on disc and in the recital hall, and require unanimity of thought and cohesion in matters of bowing and tone colour to make their optimum effect. Big personalities such as Kennedy and Harrell bring reserves of bravura but less extrovert duos, such as Juillet and Mørk, bring their own sense of intimacy and drama.

Drechsler and Gieron are both members of the Baden Staatskapelle in Karlsruhe and make a sympathetic pairing, both clearly attuned to each other’s playing and phrasing. The studio acoustic is somewhat resonant which can make for diffusion but the balance between instruments is just. The all-important dialogue between voices is caught well in the Allegro though maybe the second movement (Très vif) could go with greater incision. The Lent third movement, that so clearly looks back to the great Passacaille of the Piano Trio of 1914, is veiled and intimate, drawing the listener in and not projecting out, whilst there’s fine march rhythms in the finale. That Ravel knew Kodály’s own Duo of 1914 seems fairly certain. Its turbulent relationship with sonata form development is all to the good, yielding moments of ripe lyricism and intensity – the cello’s breadth of phrasing in the opening movement is matched by a palpable sense of unease – well picked up by the German duo. Coursing throughout the Duo is of course folk music – and they bring out, but don’t over egg, the drunken folk fiddle motif in the finale as indeed they do the palpable sense of improvisatory freedom Kodály has so splendidly ensured is heard. The drones and powerful sonorities may be more tensile elsewhere and the cut and thrust of Kennedy-Harrell may be more obviously virtuosic (to say nothing of the classic Heifetz-Piatigorsky) but these young musicians clearly know their way around this difficult score.

Felix Treiber was born in 1960 and studied violin under Wolfgang Marschner. He founded the Spohr Quartet and became deputy leader of the same orchestra in which Drechsler and Gieron now play. He’s now an artistic director and composer and wrote his Intermezzos for the string duo to play. There are actually nine of them but in this performance – which is actually the world premiere – they have selected six for a cycle. The six feed on contrasts, moving from the fiery opener (Furioso) to the eerily withdrawn No.2 (marked Tranquillo, teneramente). The most compelling however is No.4, a tension filled fantasia full of space and silent bars though the final of the presented six mines a sense of stasis with quiet flair.

Jonathan Woolf

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