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Time & Eternity
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (violin)
Wieslaw Pipczynski (accordion)
Monika Würsten (singer); Sarah Würsten (singer); Beata Würsten (singer)
Henri Mugier (Cantor, Berne Jewish Community)
Wojciech Maruszewski (Polish Priest for the Canton Bern)
Ioan Ciurin (Priest for the Russian Orthodox Church in Bern)
Camerata Bern
rec. 2018, Studio, Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF), Zurich
Sung and spoken texts in booklet
ALPHA 545 [77.00]

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, affectionally known as Pat Kop, certainly devises some interesting projects and her new album ‘Time & Eternity’ is one of the fruits of her new role as artistic director of the Camerata Bern. The Moldovan-Austrian-Swiss violinist Kopatchinskaja states this programme of music that traverses some 600 years “is made out of the blood and tears of tortured souls: a strangled scream, voices muttering amid a terrified silence, the sounds of war in an improvised cadenza. It is about us, our past and our future.”

The album ‘Time & Eternity’ is a close re-creation of a staged concert programme given by Kopatchinskaja and the Camerata Bern in September 2018 at Französische Kirche, Berne which was illuminated by 1,200 candles. Kopatchinskaja’s concept centres around two main works both for solo violin and strings, Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre and Martin’s Polyptyque. Included too are 5 separate works of J.S. Bach chorales given in transcriptions for string orchestra. This programme also contains separate contributions from a Jewish Cantor, Polish Priest, Russian Orthodox Priest and traditional folk singers.

A Bavarian, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, is best known for his Concerto funèbre for violin and string orchestra. Originally entitled ‘Music of Sorrow’ and written in 1939 during the rise of Nazi Germany and the start of World War II, Hartmann undertook considerable revision to the score in 1959. Hartmann stated that the work, which could be viewed as a form of Passion, reflected “the intellectual and spiritual hopelessness of the age.” In the score Hartmann employs musical quotations sometimes described as Chorales: there is a Hussite song ‘You who are God’s warriors’, a Russian song ‘You fell as victims’ and also a Jewish song ‘Eliyahu hanavi’. Swiss composer Frank Martin’s Polyptyque is written for solo violin with the unusual combination of two small string orchestras and was premiered in 1973. It was Yehudi Menuhin and Edmond de Stoutz who commissioned the score for the 25th Jubilee of the Internationalen Musikrat. For Polyptyque Martin was inspired by the Maestà altarpiece in Sienna painted by artist Duccio di Buoninsegna around 1310 choosing 6 picture panels of the Passion of Christ.

Written some thirty-five years apart Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre and Martin’s Polyptyque are both demanding works that have much in common, particularly with regard to mood and style, together with connections to the Chorale. One senses Kopatchinskaja’s total involvement in the programme she has created and with the conductor-less Camerata Bern, she couldn’t really ask for finer support. With Kopatchinskaja playing so effectively I haven’t heard these splendid twentieth-century scores sound better. In sterling form throughout Kopatchinskaja melds her immaculate violin technique with rapt intensity and expression. Decisively the performance brings out the dark foreboding, and sheer sense of despair and menace contained in the writing.

Most enjoyable is American composer John Zorn’s Kol Nidre for string orchestra a work of affecting sadness. Making quite an impression is Czech composer Luboš Fišer’s Crux with its increasingly prominent doom-laden timpani thwacks over the solo violin. Towards the conclusion the inclusion of bells certainly adds to the impact. Successful too are the individual contributions from 3 faith representatives from Bern (a Jewish Cantor, Polish Priest and Russian Orthodox Priest) that help create an atmosphere of hope and consolation. On the other hand, the short work Dwa serdusszka (Two Hearts) by Polish composer Tadeusz Sygietynski, sung by 3 traditional folk singers, provides a contrast but nothing more. Likewise, I find the transcription of the Kyrie from Guillaume de Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame equally uninspiring. Disappointing too are the 5 string orchestra transcriptions from J.S. Bach chorales which make me realise how much these works benefit from their choral parts.

Recorded at Zurich in the Studios of SRF the sound engineers excel providing satisfying clarity and balance. An essay ‘Time and Eternity’ by Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Lukas Fierz provides most of the essential information. I am pleased to report that there are sung and spoken texts provided in the booklet.

‘Time & Eternity’ is certainly an honourable and fascinating album but part of the concept doesn’t entirely work for me. My issue is with the lengthiest work here, Martin’s Polyptyque that has slotted between each of its 6 movements one of J.S. Bach’s very short chorales and finally Fišer’s Crux. This approach gets in the way and rather impairs the score’s emotional effect. Nevertheless, the major works Hartmann’s Concerto funèbre and Martin’s Polyptyque are given outstanding performances by soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Camerata Bern.
Michael Cookson
1. Kol Nidre (cantor) [0.31]
Jon ZORN (b. 1953)
2. Kol Nidre [5.52]
3. Elijahu Hanawi (Elijah the Prophet) [0.59]
Karl Amadeus HARTMANN (1905-1963)
4-7. Concerto funèbre, for violin & string orchestra (1939, rev 1959) [21.14]
Unsterbliche Opfer & War Cadenza (improvisation)
Music probably by N.N. Ikonnikow: Arranged by Wieslaw Pipczynski: Text by W.G. Archangelski: German text by Hermann Scherchen:
8. Arranged for String Orchestra and Accordion - War Cadenza (Improvisation) [4.21]
9. Boze Ojcze, przebaczenie jest wielkim darem (Polish Priest) [0.45]
(God, forgiveness is a great gift)
Tadeusz SYGIETYNSKI (1896-1955)
10. Dwa serdusszka (Two Hearts) [2.12]
Two Hearts: text by Mira Ziminska
Guillaume de MACHAUT (c. 1300-1377)
from Messe de Nostre Dame
11. Kyrie, transcribed for string orchestra [3.38]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
12. I. Image des Rameaux [3.53]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
from Johannes-Passion (St. John Passion), BWV 245 (1724)
13. Choral: Ach großer König, groß zu allen Zeiten, transcribed for string orchestra [0.48]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
14. II. Image de la Chambre haute [5.56]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
15. Choral: Als Jesus Christus in der Nacht, BWV 1108, transcribed for string orchestra [1:24]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
16. III. Image de Juda [2.01]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
from Johannes-Passion (St. John Passion), BWV 245 (1724)
17. Choral: Durch dein Gefängnis, transcribed for string orchestra [1.01]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
18. IV. Image de Gethsemane [4.04]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
from Johannes-Passion (St. John Passion), BWV 245 (1724)
19. Choral: Wer hat dich so geschlagen, transcribed for string orchestra [0:59]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
20. V. Image du Jugement [3.54]
Luboš FIŠER (1935-1999)
21. Crux, for violin, timpani & bells [6.31]
Frank MARTIN (1890-1974)
from Polyptyque, for violin and two small string orchestras
22. VI. Image de la Glorification [4.04]
23. Christus ist auferstanden (Orthodox Priest) [0:26]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
from Johannes-Passion (St. John Passion), BWV 245 (1724)
24. Choral: O große Lieb, transcribed for string orchestra [2:17]
Camerata Bern,
Patricia Kopatchinskaja (artistic director / violin soloist)
Monika Würsten (singer) - tracks 3, 10
Sarah Würsten (singer) - tracks 3, 10
Beata Würsten (singer) - tracks 3, 10
Wieslaw Pipczynski (accordion) - tracks 8, 10
Henri Mugier (Cantor, Berne Jewish Community) - track 1
Wojciech Maruszewski (Polish Priest for the Canton Bern) - track 9
Ioan Ciurin (Priest for the Russian Othodox Church in Bern) - track 23

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