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Peter EÖTVÖS (b.1944)
DoReMi, Violin Concerto No.2 (2012) [21:49]
Cello Concerto Grosso (2010/11) [26:54]
Speaking Drums (2012/13) [22:19]
Midori (violin)
Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello)
Martin Grubinger (percussion)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Peter Eötvös
rec. Auditorium de Radio France, Paris, 17, 18, 21 and 24 November 2014
ALPHA 208 [71:02]

Reviewed as mp3 press preview from Outhere Music group.

There are Eastern European composers whose music lies easily on the ear – Arvo Pärt and his ilk – and whose œuvre, though challenging, I can cope with.  Unfortunately, I must warn that those who don’t take kindly to more angular contemporary music will find this recording harder to come to terms with.

The subtitle of Violin Concerto No.2, DoReMi, may make it look like easy listening.  It isn’t: the dreaded influence of Peter Eötvös’s mentor, Karlheinz Stockhausen is all too apparent.  Actually the title, far from implying simple sol-fa notation, is a rearrangement of the name of its dedicatee, Midori, who performs it here.  I can certainly appreciate her performance in the solo role, playing almost non-stop from start to finish, but I failed to note the ‘elfin’ quality of that solo part or the ‘memories of old folk music practices … evoked as if far off’, as described in the notes.  I recommend fellow stick-in-the-muds to sample first if possible, though I should add that your sampling should include the third movement, which I found much the most amenable: for once I found myself in accord with the mention in the notes of ‘nocturnal poetry’.

The influence of Bartók is more at work in the Cello Concerto Grosso, though it’s a Bartók who has been influenced by the likes of Stockhausen.  As the title implies, the baroque concerto grosso is also an influence, if only because the cello is primus inter pares rather than a soloist.

It might have helped if the booklet had contained the texts associated with Speaking Drums.  I’m afraid that my Hungarian in the first and second movements is non-existent and my Sanskrit for the finale not much better.  That apart, I found this, the most recent work here, the most enjoyable of the three, though not without the occasional reminiscence of the famous Hoffnung spoof setting of ‘Who was that lady I saw you with last night?’ in German.  On a more serious note, comparison with Boulez’ Pli selon pli and Le marteau sans maître would not be out of place.

If, like William Hedley, you enjoyed enormously Eötvös’s Levitation (ABCD314 – review), I should add that you may be more attracted to the three works on the new recording than I was, though I listened to that work courtesy of Naxos Music Library and, while not head over heels, liked it a good deal better than anything on the Alpha album.

Unfortunately Outhere, who had upped their game and were sending review previews in 256kb/s or  320kb/s mp3 and once in lossless wma, have reverted to 192kb/s for this release, which means that it only approximates the CD or a lossless download.  Even so, it augurs well for the finished product.

Lack of texts apart, the booklet contains detailed analysis of the music though, as I’ve suggested, I wasn’t always able to match the music I was hearing to the description.

Those wishing to follow my advice to sample will find it at Qobuz, where it can also be downloaded for a reasonable Ł6.79 (16-bit lossless, with booklet) or a little more in 24-bit.  Subscribers can also stream from Naxos Music Library.  Despite my admiration for the quality of the performances, overall I must end, as on other occasions, with the last words of D H Lawrence’s poem Bat: ‘Not for me!’

Brian Wilson



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