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Matthias Well (violin)
Maria Well (cello)
Zdravko Živković (accordion)
rec. 2017, Bethanienkirche, Leipzig
GENUIN GEN17486 [54:04]

The stark black presentation and hyperbolic title suggest a crushingly deep mourning strangely contradicted by the jocular look on the face of violinist Matthias Well. The protégée of Julia Fischer - who writes a pleasing foreword – has crafted for fiddle, accordion and cello – eminently portable mourning instruments – that cheers quite as much as it indulges melancholy. The German subtitle promises ‘a living homage to mourning music of different cultures’.

Strangely, though, this project partially owes its genesis to a leg pull. Well’s involvement in the project was stimulated by reading Rohan Kriwaczek’s An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin which he doesn’t note – and from his notes doesn’t seem to know – is to the history of violin making what William Boyd’s Nat Tate is to American Art History, which is to say a hoax. There was no such thing as the Funerary Violin. There was no such person as Nat Tate.

Well, leaving this to one side, what Well and his colleagues present is a 17-track album containing things Alpine, Irish, Scottish, Jazz, Popular and Indian. And then there’s a single movement from Bach and odd examples, such as the sweetly lyrical Glière Berceuse. This all adds up to a rather perplexing-looking pottage and yet there are some really pleasurable elements to be encountered. High amongst them is the fresh innocence of some of the pieces, such as the Allerseelen Jodler, though it takes an agile mind to fix Funeralissimo to a piece such as this. In the same vein there’s an up-tempo Balkan dance and an arrangement of a piece by Stradella which maybe tips a hat to the (though as we know non-existent) seventeenth-century heyday of the so-called Funerary Violin. Danny Boy and an Indian Raga make interesting bedfellows as indeed do Bonnie at Morn, the Scottish folksong, and Reuben Calderon’s Lamento Mexicano, a passacaglia-like affair that widens the geographical reach of the programme still further.

In fact, the track-listing is almost defiantly whimsical; the Andante from Bach’s Second solo sonata takes its place alongside a sonically lively West African Totentanz called Hede Nyuie by Alexander F Müller; arranged by him I assume, though it’s not quite clear. Ciprian Porumbescu’s Andante Flébile has a textbook bipartite construction – slow and very fast – whilst St James’ Infirmary is co-opted to the Magyar-Jewish Gypsy school. I’m not sure how Henry Red Allen would have thought about that so perhaps it’s fortunate that we won’t know. The disc ends with the sinuous hopefulness of Piazzolla’s Oblivion.

Thinking about all those oddities of placement and inclusion, and remembering Well’s beaming cover picture, I can’t help wondering if he is actually playing his own joke. Perhaps, after all, he knows perfectly well the book was a hoax and he’s genially hoaxing the listener with this frequently bizarre, interesting, and occasionally indigestible disc. One thing’s for sure; he and Maria Well (cello) and Zdravko Živković (accordion) are fine players and produce a most attractive corporate sound. They dance well too, rhythmically speaking. I just wonder whether they’re not giggling a bit as well, somewhere down the line.

Jonathan Woolf

Allerseelen Jodler [2:25]
Turceasca [3:58]
Aria di Chiesa by Alessandro Stradella (1639-1682) [3:30]
Londonderry Air [3:01]
Raga [4:11]
Bonny at Morn [1:50]
Lamento mexicano by Reuben B Calderon (b.1984) [3:01]
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003: III. Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) [4:04]
Gloomy Sunday by Rezső Seress (1899-1968) [2:45]
Hede Nyuie [2:05]
8 Pieces for Violin & Cello, Op. 39: No. 3, Berceuse by Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) [3:13]
Ballad for Violin & Piano, Op. 29 by Ciprian Porumbescu (1853-1883) [7:04]
Dort oben, vor der himmlischen Tür [1:19]
Totentanz by Mathias Rehfeldt (b.1986) [3:35]
St. James Infirmary [2:38]
12 Miniatures: No. 5, Suliko by Akaki Zereteli (1840-1915) [2:32]
Oblivion by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) [2:46]
Arr for Violin, Cello and Accordion by Matthias Well



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