Forbidden Music
Gideon KLEIN (1919-1945)
String Trio (1944) [11:29]
Duo for violin and violoncello (1940) [8:46]
Ervín SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Duo for violin and violoncello (1925) [16:46]
Sonata for solo violin (1922) [11:02]
Hans KRÁSA (1899-1944)
Passacaglia and Fuga – for string trio (1944) [9:06]
Tanec, for String Trio [5:15]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Kaddish (arr. Daniel Hope) [4:37]
Daniel Hope (violin); Philip Dukes (viola); Paul Watkins (cello)
rec. September 2001 and April 2002 (Schulhoff solo violin sonata), Wyastone Leys, Monmouth
NIMBUS NI 5702 [67:14]
This disc resonates with three of the what-might-have-beens of Czech music, whose lives were brutally truncated between 1942 and 1945. Fortunately, increasing attention has been paid to their compositions, and this disc – released back in 2003 – is one of that gratifying number.
Schulhoff’s Duo is one of the most impressive. It receives a good performance from the Hope-Watkins pairing, though comparison with the older recording by Antonín Novák and Václav Bernášek shows how their slightly more razory interplay and immediate folkloric instincts pay greater dividends [Praga PR 255006]. In all I prefer the Czechs in more localised and general moments; the greater incision of the Czech players’ accenting in the first movement even though they’re slightly slower; the tighter, faster vibratos of both Czech string players; the avoidance of English metricality in the Zingaresca. Similarly there’s just a touch of reserve in the Andantino in the Nimbus recording, after the emotional honesty of the Czechs. Still there are revealing differences and it’s intriguing to hear how the Hope-Watkins duo locates a more tenaciously optimistic profile through the finale’s struggle than do the Czech pair.
The same composer’s solo sonata for violin is one of his chamber masterpieces. Once again Novák offers a stern test on the same Praga disc. Here the divergences are again expressive as much as technical. The Czech violinist’s resinous drive, his ability to ricochet his pizzicatos, and his con fuoco vehemence are exemplary. But so too is Hope’s less militant approach, and his depth of tone. The faster vibrato of Novák does alter the character of the respective performances however; so, for more unsettled and rough-hewn extroversion go for Novák; for a somewhat more playful and emollient approach try Hope.
Gideon Klein’s 1944 Trio has an admixture of Bartókian vehemence and lyric intensity, allied to strong Moravian cadences in the central slow movement. The trio plays its haunted central section with apt colour and unleash the controlled drive and drama of the finale with energy and sonorous eloquence. The same composer’s (uncompleted, two-movement) Duo for violin and cello however is an earlier work, a tense, brittle torso with a terse, contemplative Lento.
Krása is represented by his 1944 Passacaglia and Fuga, the most explicitly disturbing music here. The ghostly ballroom elements that haunt it, its sense of curdled nostalgia, and ambiguous lyricism, are apt vehicles for the Nimbus duo. Their ‘reserved’ vibratos, lightly drawn but tense, are singularly impressive, even if one might also wish to hear a performance that turns with even greater terseness and incision. His Tanec (Dance) by comparison is a vigorous, folkloric opus rich in unabashed swaying rhythms. The emotive envoi is Hope’s own arrangement of Ravel’s Kaddish.
These performances are impressively committed, technically eloquent and attuned to the spirit of the music. They’ve been excellently recorded. Divergent approaches perhaps reveal greater - or other – depths, and I would never be without the Praga disc cited above.
Jonathan Woolf
Impressively committed, technically eloquent and attuned to the spirit of the music ... see Full Review