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Luciano BERIO (1925–2003)
Sequenza VIII (1976) [13 :04]
Edith CANAT DE CHIZY (b.1950)
Irisations (1999) [7:49]
Claude BALLIF (1924–2004)
Solfeggietto No.3 (1963) [5:18]
Iannis XENAKIS (1922–2001)
Mikka ‘S’ (1976) [3:39]
Daniel TOSI (b. 1953)
Flammes synthétiques (1999) [6:13]
Joan GUINJOAN (b. 1931)
Tensio (1981) [8:23]
Pierre BOULEZ (b. 1925)
Anthèmes (1991) [8:28]
Diego Tosi (violin)
rec. Perpignan, 2004; Paris, September 2002 (Edith Canat de Chizy, originally released on Aeon AECD 0210)
SOLSTICE SOCD 225 [52:54]


This collection of works for solo violin opens with Berio’s Sequenza VIII. According to Diego Tosi’s words, the entire programme may be experienced as a long “Sequenza”, in which various French composers as well as a Catalan emulate Berio’s violin study. Each of them approaches the problem with his/her own feeling and technique, so that the whole is remarkably varied. Berio’s Sequenza VIII is well-known by now through several recordings, some of them fairly recent. Berio started where Bartók left off. In turn, Bartók’s masterly Sonata for Solo Violin was the heir to Bach’s Partitas and Ysaÿe’s sonatas. One also thinks of Jolivet’s Suite Rhapsodique as an important contemporary work for solo violin. As mentioned in the heading, this recorded performance of Edith Canat de Chizy’s Irisations was originally released as part of Aeon AECD 0210 reviewed here some time ago. I will thus not repeat my earlier comments about this very fine work. Suffice it to say that Edith Canat de Chizy was trained as a violinist and knows how to write for violin - and strings in general - while never forgetting the poetic character with which each of her works is deeply imbued.

Claude Ballif may be a somewhat lesser-known composer, although some of his works were  available in commercial recordings. He was a deeply independent mind whose music, which he called “metatonality”, placed him in isolation with the musical environment of the time. His music is often rather austere, even in some of his large-scale works such as the choral symphony Le Livre du Serviteur Op.59 (1983/7). He has composed a series of pieces for solo instruments sharing the collective title of Solfeggietto, of which the third heard here was completed in 1963.

Surprising enough Xenakis’s short work Mikka ‘S’ stands in total contrast to the other pieces here, in that it does not set out to exploit the violin’s technical possibilities. Xenakis rather relies on glissando and double-stopping, which of course does not make the music easier to play! I found this fairly impressive in spite of its brevity.

Although this is not overtly mentioned in the insert notes, I suppose that Daniel Tosi is related to Diego Tosi - his father? his elder brother? His Flammes synthétiques is a superb display of modern playing techniques; but, again, the music is really very fine and quite attractive.

Catalan-born Joan Guinjoán is a much better-known name although I must confess that I had never heard a note of his music before. His Tensio is in the same mould as most other works here, in that it exploits the full range of the instrument to telling effect, but again with a strong expressive aim.

Finally, Boulez’s Anthèmes completed in 1991, is surprisingly attractive. I nearly said straightforward, if such an epithet was not a bit incongruous when dealing with Boulez’s strictly structured, neatly written-out music.

The music in these works is fiendishly difficult, although technical complexity is never present for its own sake, but with a view to some poetic vision. Tosi’s playing is simply stunning from first to last, whereas his musicality is never at fault. The whole programme may be too much for some tastes to take in a single hearing, and I would suggest then to proceed step by step, work by work. The result is well worth the effort.

Hubert Culot


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