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To be Sung on the Water: Music for Solo Violin
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692- 1770) Sonata IX in A major [12.21]; Sonata II in D minor [9.09]; Sonata XIII in B minor [9.29]
Donald CROCKETT (b. 1951) To be sung on water (1988) [11.30] *
Mickey Finn, for solo violin (1996) [9.58]
Michelle Makarski (violin), Ronald Copes (viola)*
rec. Radio Studio DRS, Zurich, March 2004. DDD
ECM NEW SERIES 476310-2 [52.47]

A typical ECM combination and a fascinating one.
I rarely start a review by immediately singing the praises of and quoting the booklet notes but here I will. Steven Stucky’s excellent essay, which could also practically pass as a review in itself, sets the scene very well. I quote: “In putting the two composers together ... born more than 250 years apart, into vastly different worlds - into conversation with one another, Michelle Makarski draws her listeners into that unexpected conversation”. Later in the notes when he comments more on the actual pieces he adds, to back up his statement further “To pass directly from the close of Tartini’s A-major Sonata to the opening of Crockett’s to be sung on the water is a revelation, casting fresh light in both directions”.
I realized early on and would advise the listener that it is not good to hear the entire CD all through at once. Over 50 minutes of solo violin might after all stretch anyone’s patience. Instead do listen to the pieces in pairs: a Tartini sonata followed immediately by a work by Crockett. Stucky adds further “Another revelation follows in the Tartini D-minor sonata, whose open fifths and unadorned timbre seem borrowed directly from Crockett’s late 20th Century vernacular.” - a nice conceit this.
Implicit in these comments is that Michelle Makarski devised the programme herself. It is beautifully balanced with Tartini IX, II and XIII and Donald Crockett fitting intriguingly into the gaps. It does however lead to a CD of somewhat short length. Anyway not only is the programme neatly balanced it is also superbly played. I felt at times dreamily suspended in mid-air, floating above the sound, as Makarski touches the strings, often with such delicacy that we seem to be listening through a gauze. At no point was I, to use a word I hate, bored. This is down to the wonderful, ethereal performances.
The piece which especially I enjoyed was Crockett’s to be sung on the water for violin and viola in which Ronald Copes to whom the work is dually dedicated makes an able and equal partner to Makarski. You should take Delius right out of your mind but the magical, floating harmonies - sometimes dissonant, sometimes beautifully still, consonant and widely spaced - have the Englishman’s sense of natural melody.
It is this underlying theme of melody which is the thread throughout the CD. Both of Crockett’s pieces are reliant on it, not in a conventional way but in the way in which lines gradually unfold slowly over an increasing range. With Tartini it is of note that his sonatas seem only concerned with line and tune. Unlike Bach in his unaccompanied works they never employ double-stopping or chords. The reason for this, suggested in the notes is that Tartini born within what is now modern day Slovenia had an “oft-professed passion for Slavic folk-tune”. Incidentally Makarski’s background is also Slavic and Italian. Stucky goes on “… It is not far-fetched to hear Slavic accents in the affecting melodies of some of Tartini’s slow movements which open the sonatas.” To this I would add a definite ‘yes’, especially when, for example, hearing the opening Andante of the B minor Sonata.
The booklet also contains the manuscript of the opening of the five movement A major sonata in the composer’s immaculate hand. There’s also a contemporary sketch of him and two pictures of Michelle Makarski. Curiously there’s no picture of Donald Crockett; a pity that. After all he is well known in America as a conductor as well as a composer of pieces for the Arditti and Kronos Quartets. He was also composer-in-residence to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
All in all a very civilized disc, beautifully recorded and superbly played.
Gary Higginson


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