Tertis Viola Ensemble - Concerto, Fantasy, Blues
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto for 4 violas in C major – transcribed from concerto for 4 violins [5:50]
Concerto for 4 violas in G major – transcribed from concerto for 4 violins [5:55]
Max von WEINZIERL (1841-1898)
Nachtstück for 4 violas Op.34 [8:51]
York BOWEN (1884-1961)
Fantasia ("Fantasie Quartet") in E minor for 4 Violas, Op. 41, No.1 (1907) [10:26]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
44 Duos for two violins Sz 98 (1931) – Nos. 10 [1:10], 14 [0:36], 16 [1:07], 26 [0:22], 22 [0:33], 28 [2:34], 35 [1:03], 42 [1:09], 44 [1:55]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Four for Tango [6:30]
Christopher NORTON (b.1953)
Steering Wheel Blues [1:37]
Tertis Viola Ensemble
rec. November 2009, Weryton Studios, Munich
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 788 [50:20]
This viola ensemble, which takes its name from the pioneering British player, was founded in 2008, and is drawn from the viola section of the Munich Philharmonic. The booklet consists of an interview with the four members of the group concerning their intentions, approach to sound, and to repertoire; all worthy no doubt, but things are somewhat skimpy when it comes to the recital itself and the works performed, most of which are glossed. Given that this includes two big works in the genre, von Weinzierl’s Nachtstück and York Bowen’s Fantasie Quartet, both of which are authentically written for this combination of four violas, a few dates of composition and pointers as to stylistic matters would have been helpful for the purchaser.
Max von Weinzierl’s taut work, also I believe written for three violas and cello, is warmly textured and multi-sectional, lasting around nine minutes in length. The first section is a warm lied, the second is scherzo-like and there’s a fugal section too, then more pensive writing in the slow section. These all fuse together expertly; you can’t, as it were, see the join. It ends, as it began, with a certain wistful charm. Bowen’s Fantasie is by contrast a much more fulsome romanticised piece of writing and much more fluid in its inspiration. Its charming fillips, and sense of energy and vibrancy are well realised. Appropriate vibrato weight is used here.
The other works in the programme are, by and large, adaptations. The two Telemann concertos were written for violins. Here the Munich foursome adapts its own vibrato usage, and is very much more sparing with it. They cultivate a kind of viola da gamba sound, which is not, I suppose, all that inappropriate.
Two of the violists – I’m not sure which – play nine of Bartók’s 44 Duos for two violins. With one exception they’re played in the ‘right’ order. The duo catches the folk earthiness of No.22 and the last they play, No.44, is well characterised, though arguably they lose the incipient razory and folkloric zest of the smaller instrument. Piazzolla’s Four for Tango was originally written for string quartet, and is a typically insinuating piece with plenty of slash, sway and scratchy timbres. To end there’s Christopher Norton’s brief Steering Wheel Blues, a charming way to show the versatility of the ensemble, in a bit of blues-lite.
It’s the two authentic pieces that will most catch the eye of collectors but don’t overlook the allied music, which is all played with dextrous skill.
All played with dextrous skill.