Polish violist Marcin Murawski here offers a second volume of solo and ensemble works by the American composer Michael Kimber - see review
of the first.
He opens the programme in rousing style with Emerald Isle
, an invigorating mixture of Irish folk-like melodies and more modern-sounding harmonies, with which Kimber, like so many Americans with Irish ancestry before him, pays tribute to the old country. Coloured at times with an Irish flute, the work ends in appropriately barnstorming style. Another solo piece, Echoes of Greece
, has a similar tradition-meets-modernity nature, albeit initially stretching back much further into history to the modalities of the ancients.
There are central and eastern European folk flavours to be heard in the three Rustic Dances
, named individually (but unconnectedly) after Murawski's two pet cats, Eino and Loki, and Kimber's one, Mr Slinky. These also mark the first of three appearances from the young, Szczecin-based orchestra, formed by conductor Marek Siwka in 2011, who perform with hale enthusiasm and distinction throughout. The prominent habanera
of the catchy Fantasia Hispana
, one of Kimber's most popular pieces, continues the multinational theme.
Arguably the finest work on the programme, and one that for its sheer audience-friendliness should have a solid place in the repertoire, is the Viola Concertino. Like all of Kimber's music it is 'old-school': tuneful, rhythmically memorable and expressively contrastive without asking too much of any listener. The six solo Caprices
fall into the same category - short and broadly pedagogical they may be, but widely appealing too. They are drawn from a complete cycle of twelve: the other six featured on the previous volume, which the listener may well feel minded to acquire.
Murawski likes to offer a 'bonus track' on his recordings. Here it is the two-minute encore, 'Twelve-tone'. On balance not a title to gladden hearts, it turns out to be an innocuous, if somewhat noirish, work with which to round things off. It is not mentioned either in the notes or on Kimber's website, but is presumably a didactic piece.
On the CD inlay Kimber once again thanks Murawski for "bringing this music to a wider audience through his superlative performances and recording". Murawski has indicated that a third disc of viola works by Kimber is shortly to be recorded, which is good news for all fans of this underrated instrument - and performer. Murawski's technical poise, warm enthusiasm and elegant sense of expression make him an ideal soloist for communicating Kimber's infectious, stylish music to the world.
Audio quality at all three venues is good, with Murawski especially well recorded - the string ensemble does sound slightly muffled by comparison. Murawski deserves some extra credit for not joining the string soloist mainstream in its compulsion to take great snorts of breath at the start of every new phrase.
Acte Préalable's glossy booklet offers detailed notes in Polish and English on each work written by Kimber himself, prefaced by a useful explanation of the recording project by Murawski. As the booklet further indicates, the donations of many patrons made this recording project possible; they should all feel well repaid.
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