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Michael KIMBER (b.1945)
Music for Viola 7
Suite in baroque style for two violas (1997) [11:00]
Twentieth-Century Idioms for Viola: Secundal [2:22]: Harmonics [2:59]: Various Techniques [2:34]: Aleatoric [5:17]
Winter Awakening (2015) [6:39]
Duo sonata in classical style for two violas (1998) [18:28]
Monolog i Krakowiak (2000) [7:33]
Four Canons for two violas (2006-08) [5:13]
Marcin Murawski (viola): Michalina Matias (viola): Kamil Babka (viola): Michael Kimber (viola)
rec. March 2017, Polish-Norwegian Cultural Centre, Poznan and live, April 2014, USM International Viola Festival (Aleatoric)

Acte Préalable has a burgeoning stable of discs devoted to the American violist and composer Michael Kimber and all of them consist of works for his own instrument. We’re now up to volume seven in a seemingly inexhaustible corpus of music but it’s one that offers a binary look at the composer, illustrating Kimber in both his pedagogic and compositionally advanced selves. It also features a performance by the executant-composer himself.

Both the Suite in Baroque style and the Duo sonata in Classical style are cast for two violins. They’re also aids to teaching. The former offers work-in-practice for the student who is not yet equipped to tackle a solo ‘suite’. By suite I assume Kimber means one of the solo sonatas or partitas or even the keyboard-accompanied sonatas. Thus, he writes an instructive piece with a full complement of the expected dance movements in Bachian style; the second part can be taken by a teacher or partner. Similarly, the Classical sonata takes Haydn as its model, constructing a typical four-movement format in rather pastiche style both amiable and engaging. Once again familiarity with the style is the intent.

Interspersed throughout the disc is a sequence of short etudes extracted from Kimber’s 20th Century Idioms for Viola. Secundal, Harmonics, Various Techniques and Aleatoric have the advantage of linguistic directness – no flimflam when it comes to descriptive titling from Kimber, I’m glad to say. These etudes explore major and minor, dissonance, ‘random assortments of special effects’ and fragmentary passages offering improvisation to the exponent, or the insertion of quotation randomly or not at all.

The Four Canons offer a taut five minutes couched largely in twelve-tone and a single movement that one can tell, from its nomenclature – Sehr langsam - and from its rhetoric is inspired by one of the great violist-composers, Hindemith. It’s rather reminiscent, in fact, of Trauermusik. The Monolog i Krakowiak is played by the composer himself at the 2014 USM International Viola Festival. Originally conceived for saxophone but with the expectation of being performed on the viola it’s an attractive, athletic piece and through there are occasionally flecked folkloric phrases in the second section it won’t be immediately apparent that this is a Krakowiak; though, to be fair, the composer admits as much himself in the notes.
Marcin Murawski takes the main burden of responsibilities very capably, though Michalina Matias, who joins him for the Suite, is not far behind. Kamil Babka joins Murawski for the Duo Sonata. As previously noted the composer plays one item.

Given the specialist nature of this undertaking the most stylistically interesting pieces are the advanced ones, the Etudes. They are certainly worth hearing though, because of the teaching element of the programming, this seventh volume is not for more general listening.

Jonathan Woolf


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