The Zappas are Swiss,
and brother and sister; she plays the violin, he the cello.
Daria is a member of the strangely named casalQUARTET which,
when it’s not being orthographically obscure, is a good string
quartet. Cellist Mattia is a recitalist and a member of the
a finely balanced programme for Guild. There are two world premieres
one of which, by Matešic, was written for the Zappas, the seldom-performed
Gličre pieces, the classic Schulhoff duo and that well-known
virtuoso standby, the Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia.
Gličre’s Eight Morceaux
were written in 1909 and are a pleasing mix of baroque and romantic.
The Gavotte is a dainty piece of baroque invention with a delicious
contrasting folkloric drone section. There’s a touching Berceuse,
a salon-light Canzonetta and a wittily deployed Scherzo with
unison attacks and good dynamic range. The finale Etude is quicksilver
– a show-off end to an enjoyable and amusing, none-too-serious
racked up quite a number of recordings by now and rightly so.
The Zappa performance grew on me gradually. I still think their
opening Moderato movement is lacking in a bit of inside knowledge.
It’s neither as deadpan as the best Czech performances nor as
personal either. But they do tear into the Zingaresca with
tremendous panache and make the Supraphon team of Pavel Hůla
and Václav Bernášek sound rather staid. Bernášek incidentally
must have played and recorded this as much as anyone. In his
Praga recording with Antonín Novák he sounds more at home and
strikes a very Zappa-like pose in this movement. The Zappas
don’t press too hard in the Andantino. Other pairings
have been more emotive here but I rather liked the Zappa approach
in the end. It makes structural and emotive sense and it’s splendidly
Roter Raum is the second movement of his Zyklus,
written in 1998. The composer’s note mentions contemplative
oracles, blacked out rooms and colours. To replicate the compositional
process I dismissed my family, shut the door, turned off the
lights and listened. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to experience
much beyond some rollicking jazz-cello, hints of folkloric drive
– Bartók maybe – and some brittle, rather juddery writing. Enjoyable
The other premiere
is longer and dedicated to the duo. Matešic’s 2004 Duo opens
with powerful violin ostinati and accompanying cello figures
that soon develop a powerful and vivid drive. There are strong
hints of rustic barbarity along the way and also of Bergian
influence. The slow section generates an expressionist angst
and offers plenty of room for expressive playing – all duly
I only wish that
this talented duo had resisted the temptation to indulge some
overly hushed pianissimi in the Handel-Halvorsen.
and warmly recorded this disc also has the benefit of some good
notes. The two contemporary composers’ notes are helpful as
well. Esoteric though this combination is the performances are
highly assured and I valued the playing.