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Viola Voilà - Esther
Franz Peter SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Arpeggione Sonata, D.821 (1824) arranged for viola and
Richard (Riccardo) DRIGO (1846-1930)
Valse Bluette, arranged for viola and piano by Jascha Heifetz
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Capriccio, for solo viola (c. 1883) [3:55]
John CAGE (1912-1992)
Dream, arranged for viola quartet and piano [9:00]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
lègie, for solo viola (1944) [6:50]
Hydropath, for viola quartet, electric bass and trumpet [7:28]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Berceuse, Op. 16 (1879) arranged for viola and piano [4:20]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Le Grand Tango, for viola and piano (c. 1990) [10:30]
(viola); Rië Tanaka (piano)
Amsterdam Viola Quartet: (Esther Apituley; Rogier van der
Tak; Mieke Honingh; Ernst Grapperhaus)
Eric Calmes (electric bass); Hans Dagelet (trumpet)
rec. 2006, Nederlands Hervormde kerk, Rhoon, Holland. DDD
playing the viola I can sometimes vanish into the great void;
then my bow and fingers take on a life of their own. These
moments are an unusual and precious blessing.” Esther
Viola Voilà from violist Esther Apituley
follows close on the heels of her first release Violent
Viola (see review) for Challenge Classics, the Netherlands
based independent record label. I was so impressed with Apituley’s
excellent playing on Violent Viola that I made the
recording my joint ‘2006 Record of the Year’.
Viola Voilà is an eclectic collection
of scores by eight composers featuring the viola as a solo
instrument either in the original versions or Apituley’s
own arrangements. The scores range from the early nineteenth
century classical elegance of Schubert’s Arpeggione
Sonata for viola and piano, to Vieuxtemps’s
Romantic Capriccio for solo viola to John
Cage’s avant-garde Dream for viola quartet and piano.
Also included on the release is Esther Apituley’s own composition Hydropath for viola
quartet, electric bass and trumpet.
This release showcases the considerable talents
of the Amsterdam born Esther Apituley. She started playing
the violin at the age of twelve, soon switching to the viola.
After graduating from the Amsterdam Sweelinck Conservatory,
Apituley took lessons at the Hochschule Für Musik in Berlin.
During her early studies, she was also active as a singer
and saxophonist in the field of light music. The versatile
Apituley currently teaches viola at the Amsterdam Sweelinck
In 1990 Apituley
gave her first solo viola recital in the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
With her enthusiastically received performances she has gone
some way to refute the prevailing image of the viola as a mere
voice in the middle range, destined only to serve others. Apituley
has played as a soloist with the National Ballet Orchestra,
North Holland Philharmonic, Metropole Orchestra and the Radio
Chamber Orchestra. Her broad repertoire includes the viola
concertos by Berlioz, Bartók, Chiel Meijering, Mozart’s Sinfonia
Concertante for violin and viola, K364 and Britten Lachrymae.
She tells me that she has also performed the Frank Bridge Lament for two violas and the York Bowen Fantasie
for four violas with the Amsterdam Viola Quartet.
Apituley has worked tirelessly to bring the viola
out from under the shadows cast by the violin and cello.
Her main priority is to present programmes that are characterised
by their originality, versatility and accessibility to the
audience. In 2000, Apituley founded the Amsterdam Viola Quartet
who place emphasis on distinctive performance presentation
and their eclectic repertoire consists of contemporary and
established classical music along with tango and contemporary
opening work is the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata composed
in 1824 for the now obsolete instrument called the arpeggione.
The arpeggione, a six string instrument that was similar in
shape, tuned and fretted like a guitar and played between the
knees like a cello with a bow, did enjoy a brief vogue for
a decade or so after its invention around 1823. Her viola and piano arrangement of the substantial twenty minute Arpeggione
Sonata displays what a remarkable player and interpreter
she is as she questions the commonplace and is not afraid to
take risks. In the swiftly taken opening movement Apituley and Tanaka provide
the perfect fusion of tenderness and fervour, strongly emphasising
the highly rhythmic, dance-like quality of the score in a highly
individual interpretation. The playing from the duo in the adagio has
a reverential quality that borders on the spiritual and the rondo, finale is
vivacious and overflowing with a spring-like joy. Throughout
the work the players accentuate key notes and phrases,
and adopt brisker tempos than one
usually hears, however, they are judiciously chosen to suit
The least known composer on the disc is probably
the Padua-born Richard (Riccardo) Drigo who is best known
as a conductor of the Italian Opera in St Petersburg
and conductor and composer to the Imperial Ballet. Drigo
gave the first performances of
Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty and Nutcracker,
and Glazunov’s Raymonda. Drigo is acknowledged principally
for his ballet compositions and his brief score Valse
Bluette is presented here in the arrangement
for viola and piano by Jascha Heifetz. Apituley
and Tanaka confidently provide a
good humoured performance in this attractive dance-infused
The Belgian Vieuxtemps is best known as an eminent virtuoso
violinist whose playing was compared with that of Paganini
in some quarters. He was also an exponent of the viola and
around 1883 he composed his short Capriccio for solo viola. There is confident
playing from the impressive Apituley. The unsettling angst
of the Capriccio is a profoundly moving experience and
a highlight of this release.
The American composer John Cage was one of the leading figures
of the post-war avant-garde who with his pioneering and controversial
works made a significant impact on twentieth century music.
Cage’s Dream is performed here by the combination
of viola quartet and piano in Apituley’s own arrangement. Dream is
a substantial, still and chilly score that in this performance
evokes a picture of a solitary figure castaway on an Arctic
Stravinsky’s Èlègie was a commission in 1944 from Germain Prevost,
violist of the Pro Arte Quartet, in the memory of quartet
founder member Alphonse Onnou. The Èlègie, a
short lamentation lasting around five minutes, is the only
score Stravinsky composed for solo viola. Apituley’s interpretation
of the Èlègie, with its curious repetitive
quality, provides an abundance of sorrow combined with intense
elements of yearning and regret.
Apituley in the booklet notes writes about a fantasy world
with beasts called Hydropaths from the Polar regions that
are made of
snow and ice with eyes like multi-coloured pearls. Apituley’s
own score Hydropath written for Hans Dagelet's music
theatre piece of the same name uses the unusual instrumentation
of viola quartet, electric bass and trumpet. It is
a fascinating and inventive score with a mechanical-like
repetitiveness that opens with spiky and steely assertiveness.
From 3:14 with the introduction of the electric bass and
prominent jazzy trumpet we experience an increase in intensity,
adding a hot, sultry and heady atmosphere to the proceedings.
Fauré’s Berceuse for violin and piano was first performed
in Paris at the Société Nationale de la Musique in 1880.
The highly popular work, arranged here for viola and piano,
often performed in a version for violin and orchestra. A
short work, it is highly concentrated in mood with a limited
emotional range. No hints of a slushy lullaby here and the
temptation to linger is resisted - a remarkably calm and
pleasantly sophisticated interpretation.
Astor Piazzolla and the word tango are synonymous, controversially
developing the music that had evolved in the underclass of
Argentina society; namely the seedy back-street bars and
bordellos of the seaports, Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Le
Grand Tango was a commission by the Russian cellist,
Mstislav Rostropovich, premiered in 1990 in its original
form for cello and piano. Apituley and Tanaka perform Le
Grand Tango here in Piazzolla’s own
version for viola and piano. Piazzolla gradually
builds up the intensity in the score which does not spark
into life until 7:43 with the duo casting aside the prevailing
mellowness and delivering a large injection of spine-tingling
The Challenge Classics engineers have provided
a vivid and detailed sound quality with an excellent balance.
The rather carelessly edited booklet, with the exception
of short essays from Esther Apituley and Jacco Mijnheer,
contained only the barest of information on the actual scores.
Viola Voilà achieves the same level of
excellence as her successful release Violent Viola. Esther Apituley is a remarkable viola player and this fascinating
recording is essential chamber music listening.
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