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
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
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.