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Portrait – violin and cello duo
Massimiliano MATEŠIC (b. 1969)
Duo per Violino e Violoncello (2004) [10:11]
Reinhold GLIČRE (1875-1956)
Huit morceaux, Op. 39 (1909) [17:46]
Martin WETTSTEIN (b. 1970)
Zyklus – Second Movement; Roter Raum (1998) [6:32]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Duo für Violine und Violoncello (1925) [17:21]
Georg Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
Passacaglia from Harpsichord Suite No.7 HWV 432 arr. Johan HALVORSEN (1875-1935) [7:36]
Daria Zappa (violin)
Mattia Zappa (cello)
rec. Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, 2002-05
GUILD GMCD 7313 [59:57]


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 Zurich Tonhalle.

They’ve constructed 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 collection.

Schulhoff’s has 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 played.

Martin Wettstein’s 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 nonetheless.

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 taken.

I only wish that this talented duo had resisted the temptation to indulge some overly hushed pianissimi in the Handel-Halvorsen.

Persuasively played 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.

Jonathan Woolf



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