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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Duo for viola and cello, ‘With two eyeglasses obbligato’ in E flat major, WoO32, (1796) [8:30]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Humoresque No.7, arr. viola and cello by Sebastian Comberti [3:03]
Roman HAAS (b. 1980)
Duo No.1 for viola and cello [9:42]
Variations on a Folk Song for viola and cello [9:33]
Petr FIALA (b. 1943)
Dialogues for viola and cello (2016) [9:53]
Adam SKOUMAL (b. 1969)
The Beauty and the Beast, for viola and cello [4:12]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
La Calle 92, for viola and cello (arr. Kristina Fialová and Petr Nouzovský) [3:26]
Kristina Nouzovská Fialová (viola)
Petr Nouzovský (cello)
rec. 2017, Chapel of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren, Prague-Vinohrady
ARCO DIVA UP0178 2 131 [48:23]

The husband and wife team of violist Kristina Nouzovská Fialová and cellist Petr Nouzovský have chosen a rather short 48-minute recital that presents one classic in the shape of Beethoven’s ‘Eyeglasses’ duet, Dvořák and Piazzolla arrangements, and four premiere recordings of Czech music.

The first premiere is Roman Haas’ Duet No.1, a five-movement work with much thematic interrelation. Haas’ lively and imaginative writing embraces a rather beautiful, taut lyricism, as well as off-beat and asymmetric vitality. An adherent of dance rhythms, Haas includes a particularly exciting Bolero for the two string instruments and ends with engaging decisiveness. Haas’s Variations on a Folk Song opens with the theme followed by four variations, the last of which is a tasty Czardas. The warm Moravian theme with its idyllic rustic keening establishes a plangent and rather beautiful mood that is perfectly sustained in the contrastive variations that follow. Haas never forces the issue and nor does he court unnecessary devices; this is music cast in a thoughtful and sensitive lineage and one devoid of –isms.

Adam Skoumal’s The Beauty and the Beast plays on the fact that it was dedicated to the two musicians as a wedding gift in 2014. The title is something of a wicked joke. Its first section is a luscious Amoroso, the viola’s melody line spun over accompanying cello pizzicati, and the second is Sarcastico though this is largely conveyed in dance–based vitality. The violist’s father, the well-known choral director and composer Petr Fiala, wrote Dialogues for the two string players. Though brief it generates some of the most striking contrasts in this set, with martial elements and some real intensity in the compelling Lento, amoroso movement.

The Beethoven Duo invites, and duly receives, some genially witty playing whilst Sebastian Comberti’s arrangement of Dvořák’s Humoresque would not have been out of place in an elegant Double Eagle café – which is meant as a compliment. The final track, somewhat optimistically presented as a ‘Bonus’, is an elegant and winning arrangement by both string players of Piazzolla’s La Calle 92.
With a well-judged recording that balances both instruments justly, if occasionally a little sharply, and an attractive booklet only the relatively short playing time lets things down at all. Set against that, though, are the world premičres of attractive, uncontentious, and warmly human music.

Jonathan Woolf



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