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Four Strings around the World
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Airs in Romanian Folk Style (1926) [8:54]
Dave FLYNN (b.1977)
Tar …is an Caoineadh [8:14]
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Caprice, Op.1 No.24 (1801-07) [4:58]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1961)
Recitativo and Scherzo, Op.6 (1911) [4:55]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita in D minor, BWV1004: Chaconne (1717-23) [14:08]
Reza VALI (b.1952)
Calligraphy No.5 [6:36]
Shirish KORDE (b.1945)
VŠk, for violin and electronic drone [10:09]
Bright SHENG (b.1955)
The Stream Flows II (1990) [4:23]
Astor PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992)
Tango Etude No.3 (1987) [3:39]
Oshta (Four) (2017) [8:31]
Mark O’CONNOR (b.1961)
The Cricket Dance (1994) [1:52]
Irina Muresanu (violin)
rec. 2017 Sono Luminus Studios, Boyce, VA
SONO LUMINUS DSL-92221 [76:10]

The glamorous booklet photograph shows Romanian violist Irina Muresanu standing alluringly by a private jet, dressed in a chic red dress, her fiddle safely stashed on board. Presumably she’s going to fly the crate herself as this is a solo-violin album of geographically widespread ambition. The programme divides in two: Western and Eastern Europe, which ranges from Bach to the contemporary David Flynn via Enescu, Paganini and Kreisler, and Music from the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America; quite a lot to include here all round. In these days of Trumpian Giganticism it’s interesting to note that the USA is represented by the minuscule Cricket Dance by Mark O’Connor.

Muresanu has selected wisely when it comes to her fellow countryman, Enescu, whose Airs in Romanian Folk Style, though written in 1926, was not to be published until 2006. There aren’t many recordings around. The four movements offer plenty of opportunities for characteristic rubato-style performance and for vital dance patterns. The taut melancholia of the third piece is followed by the giocoso vibrancy of the concluding Allegro. This galvanizing reading shows its charms in fine fashion. Post-wake celebrations are encoded in Flynn’s Tar …is an Caoineadh, the Irish equivalent of the New Orleans second line cutting free after the burial. This is an eight-minute piece that draws on homages to famous Irish fiddlers and their techniques, including drones, double-stops and sul ponticello. It was, understandably, written as a companion piece to Flynn’s mournful String Quartet No.3 The Keeening/An Caoineadh.
Whatever consonances may be discerned between Irish and Romanian music, the juxtaposition of Bach’s Chaconne - overstated and slightly exaggerated in places – Paganini’s famous 24th Caprice, individually phrased, and Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo, are not easy to discern. She plays the Kreisler best, with feeling and fine tone.

For the second part of her journey she visits Iran via Reza Vali’s Calligraphy No.5. This draws on traditional Persian modes, employing the Dastgāh. This is something of which Behzad Abdi is an outstanding exponent and, like Abdi, Vali aims at a concordance between Persian and Western techniques: Bartůk is a probable starting point. Representing India, Shirish Korde’s VŠk, for violin and electronic drone invariably owes its inspiration to Ragas. The drone effect allows Muresanu to negotiate the work’s three unbroken sections with considerable virtuosity. Bright Sheng’s international reputation is now of long standing and The Stream Flows, of which we hear only the second part (shame) evokes the sound of the erhu in this dance-patterned and pizzicato-flecked piece. Piazzolla’s Tango Etude No.3 possesses all its resonant and driving capital in this solo reading. The Chickasaw Nation meanwhile is represented by the composer who has managed to defeat my symbol-heavy typing technology, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (the first ‘a’ of his surname is apparently underlined). Oshta (Four) is a long-established stylistic hybrid, like a number of pieces in this journey, based on a Choctaw church hymn, whereas The Cricket Dance is a bit of a romp from that master fiddler O’Connor.

There’s certainly plenty of variety here though I can’t help feeling excising the Chaconne and including less formally demanding pieces might have allowed the programme to flow more convincingly. But there are three world premiere recordings here – the Flynn, Korde and Oshta – so Muresanu’s well recorded, passport-less adventures deserve reward.

Jonathan Woolf

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