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In Alto
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Suite for Viola Solo (Unfinished - 1958) [8:37]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chromatic Fantasia in D Minor, BWV 903 (1707-23) transcr. Zoltán Kodály (1950) [8:59]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Suite for Cello: III. Tempo Di Valse (2004) arr. viola [2:41]
Paolo BOZZI (1930-2003)
Der Psychophysische Bogen (The Psychophysical Bow) (1987) [3:58]
Jeffrey MUMFORD (b.1955)
Revisiting Variazioni Elegiaci [5:22]
Soulima STRAVINSKY (1910-1994)
Suite for Viola Solo (1975) [9:15]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Cello Suite No. 1, Op. 72 (1964) arr. viola [24:06]
Laura Menegozzo (viola)
rec. 2017, Aicsaics Recording Studio, Italy
STEFANO SCIASCIA PRODUCTION SSP2019 [63:32]

Italian violist Laura Menegozzo has constructed a cleverly interlocking programme that yields its secrets on a closer examination than merely looking at the track listing might suggest. An inattentive scan might perhaps consider the programme incongruous or lacking focus but that would be to underestimate the attention with which it has been compiled and the reflections works throw on each other – the two big Suites, for instance by Britten and Soulima Stravinsky, Igor’s son, the one a repertoire piece, the other unknown. And then there is question of Bach, of course.

But before we get there we’re introduced to the work that Bloch left incomplete, the 1958 Suite for Viola solo. The Andante, Moderato and Andante sections are intact, but Bloch stopped shortly into the Allegro deciso and no one could persuade him, then in failing health, to take it up again. Thus, it remains a torso but a characteristic one with its Bachian elements subsumed into his very personal solo language with its abrasions and woven complexities. It is not inappropriate to move to Kodály’s transcription of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia in D Minor, a heroic act of transformation, played with commitment and control. One might not know, as the notes don’t mention it, but Penderecki’s Suite for Cello, from which the Tempo di Valse is extracted here, originally carried a dedication from the composer to Bach ‘in memoriam’ ensuring a fluidity of conception in the first three pieces even if there are no obvious stylistic correlations.

Paolo Bozzi, the rather fascinating multi-faceted experimenter, professor of the methodology of Behavioural Sciences, sometime violinist, and dedicated composer, is represented by his fearsome-sounding Der Psychophysische Bogen. If you’re wondering quite what this four-minute The Psychophysical Bow (in translation) sounds like, it plays with genres, seeming to evoke the status of an etude as well as slower more allusive lines. Whereas Jeffrey Mumford’s Revisiting Variazioni Elegiaci is, perhaps inevitably given its title, a largely melancholic essay, meditative and very effective.

Soulima Stravinsky’s Suite offers six movements; a clam Prelude, a tart March, a reserved Waltz and a genial Gigue to end. Each of the movements is compact and none outstays a welcome. Britten’s Suite, famously written for Rostropovich, survives the transcription for viola well. The desperately taxing writing in the Lamento is negotiated with commendable bravery and the Canto Secondo turns out to be the expressive heart of the performance, whilst the upper and lower voiced dialogue in the March is especially well done.

The notes with the disc are modest but helpful and the recording is perfectly adequate, Menegozzo’s viola sounding well. This is confident, probing musicianship to be heard here.

Jonathan Woolf




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