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Suites and Partitas of Modern Times
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)

Suite Italienne (1933) [17:54]
Luigi DALLAPICCOLA (1904-1975)

Tartiniana Seconda (Divertimento) (1956) [11:04]
Frederik van ROSSUM (1939-)

Graffiti Opus 16 (1968) [4:24]
Alfred SCHNITTKE (1934-1998)

Suite in Alten Style (1972) [14:53]
Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994)

Partita (1984) [16:44]
Don FREUND (1947-)

Sonapartita, noch nach Bach (2001) [10:55]
Daniel Rubenstein (violin)
Muhiddin Dürrüoglu-Demiriz (piano)
rec. 1-4 August, 2002, Theatre Saint-Michel, Brussels, Belgium
TALENT DOM 2910 125 [75:53]

 

In his booklet notes for this CD, Jean-Pierre Mévisse summarises the different styles to be found in the 20th century as ‘eclecticism’, by which is meant the gathering together of existing elements, rather than the construction of new systems. The choices composers make when they deliberately refer to past models can also have a variety of reasons, but the emphasis here is on unity – the legacy of music from the Baroque era being the central thread which links the pieces in this programme.

Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne relates closely to the ‘Pulcinella’ suite, derived from themes by (or attributed to) Pergolesi. Stravinsky had transcribed this work for violin and piano in 1925, and it was only after working on another transcription for cello and piano that, in collaboration with Samuel Duskhin, this suite was created, with an extra Scherzino movement. Rubenstein and Demiriz’s performance is a very good one, but the question of balance crops up immediately. The violin is very forward in relation to the piano, so that moments in which the violin is placed in an accompanying role work poorly. It is as well that Daniel Rubenstein’s admirable technique can shine through this spotlighting, but it is a shame that there isn’t just a little more air around the violin. The opening Introduzione movement could have been a touch more sprightly – having a lightness of touch with this duo that I like, but in a stately tempo which slightly contradicts this approach. The mix of lines in the Tarantella is once again disadvantaged through the balance, but the lyrical lines of the Serenata and Govotta movements are graceful and nicely phrased. I’m not so sure the little gap between theme and cadence each time in the Minuetto isn’t just a bit mannered, but in general there are more pluses that minuses to this performance, which ends with appropriate joie de vivre.

Despite his serial tendencies, much of Luigi Dallapiccola’s chamber work is highly approachable. He wrote this Tartiniana – a suite written in honour of Giuseppe Tartini, while teaching composition at Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood. The virtuoso nature of the violin part is a significant element in this work, but Tartini’s own melodies are recognisable, though treated to various kinds of counterpoint and contrasts of mood.

Frederic van Rossum’s Graffiti compress a great deal of material into a relatively short tripartite form. The title refers to the graphic and chiselled nature of the musical language employed, but there is little of difficulty for the listener. Echoes of Stravinsky pop through now and again, and the writing, while concise and concentrated, is conventional and easily digested, with a Sarabande rhythm appearing in the central section.

Schnittke’s Suite im Alten Style has of course appeared before, but more usually in all-Schnittke programmes, where its uncompromising, almost naïve simplicity can prove disorientating. Without forgetting that Schnittke’s personal style had been outlawed in the Soviet Union at this time, in this programme it sits neatly between works of a comparable nature, and receives a sensitive performance as a jewel of the repertoire. It appears as less an enigmatic work filled with coded secrets, as a respectful bow to traditions without which our contemporary music world would be entirely different. There is just that striking minor-second double-stop (oh, that resolution!) in the final Pantomime to remind us that there is a modern voice screaming to be allowed to speak.

Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita was written for Pinchas Zukerman and pianist Marc Neikrug and later transcribed by the composer for violin and orchestra at the request of Anne-Sophie Mutter. The title refers of course to the pre-classical tradition of keyboard music, and the rhythmic elements in the opening Allegro giusto refer to elements of gigue and allemande styles. The musical style is however entirely Lutoslawski’s own, with a great deal of independence in each part, ad libitum intermezzi between the main movements, and a dramatic impression which has kept this work a central part of contemporary violin repertoire.

The final work in this impressive programme is Sonapartita by the Pittsburgh-born composer Don Freund, written for this duo’s programme of new music for violin and piano inspired by a Baroque ancestry. Freund contributes his own programme note, helpfully pointing out the extensive musical references to Bach, and other modern composers like Lukas Foss and Stravinsky for whom such a resource has also been important. The title is a tribute to ‘Nach Bach’, a harpsichord piece by Georges Rochburg, and the third movement Presto is an exact replica of the final movement of J.S. Bach’s G minor Sonata for solo violin with piano bits added. Other elements are derived from ancient dance forms and echoes of the composers "life-long immersion in the music of Bach."

This well-filled CD has top performances by this duo, whose musical pedigree has already been proven on the international competition circuit. As mentioned previously, the balance in favour of the violin proves somewhat tiring on this recording, but this should not take too much away from some imaginative programming and imposing performances.

Dominy Clements


 



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