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Dejan DESPIC (b. 1930)
Sonatina “BACH” for Three Violins, Op. 185 (2007) [7:42]
Sonata for Solo Violin, Op. 85 (1985) [10:24]
Ian WILSON (b. 1964)
1927 for three violins (after five paintings by Paul Klee) (2009) [18:00] Sonata for solo violin (2014) [16:36] Trio Anime
rec. 2019, Belgrade Philharmonic Hall, Serbia

Firstly, some necessary introduction to this intriguing release and to shed light on the unusual connection between a Serbian trio and Irish, and Serbian, music. The Anime Violin Trio, comprising Dušica Mladenović, Mina Đekić and Marina Popović, was established in 2018. The Trio had the support of SOKOJ, the Organization of Music Authors of Serbia, to independently realize the CD project “Refleksija” (Reflection). The project includes the promotion of Serbian and Irish art music for solo violin and the unusual chamber grouping of violin trio. Three Belgrade concerts were held in January and February 2020 in the halls of the Kolarac Foundation, Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Italian Institute (in cooperation with Cultural Center of Belgrade and Association of Serbian Artists). The trio performed works from this recording by Serbian composer Dejan Despić and Irish composer Ian Wilson.

The Anime String Quartet embarked on its first series of full-length concerts in various Serbian cities in 2014. In 2016 they gave the world premiere of Ian Wilson’s String Quartet no. 16, “Aus der ZauberkŁche” (From the magical kitchen). This work was written especially for, and dedicated to, the Anime Quartet. A recording of the same piece was broadcast on the “Nova” and “Encore” shows of Ireland’s classical music radio station “RT… Lyric FM”.

Reflection is apparently, a musical dialogue between Despić and Wilson. Reflection, is seen as a glint of light, thought or sound. It is intended to carry a mode of thinking, transferring attention from the object of observation to the subject and deliberating the relationship between them. This represents the merging and diverging points of the two main actors of this discussion. The topic of the conversation is the same: the cyclical forms which the composers used independently of one another. This also bears on the same (unusual) instrumental combinations for which they were written.

Despić is a classical composer, author, music theoretician and pedagogue. Allowing for a Symphony listed in this site’s Eastern European Discography, his works have not been reviewed here. His Sonatina “Bach” is in three parts. This is based on Bach’s surname and is surprisingly melodic. It is also approachable in the same way as Messiaen is to those not prejudiced against music based more on form and influence than structure. Despić’s violin trio “Sonatina B-A-C-H” was written in 2007 and takes these musical notes as a starting point for a short, three-part structure comprising Intrada, Arietta and Scherzino. There are traces to my ears of “TurangalÓla-Symphonie” as well as of Bach. The famous and countlessly used themes are at the root of this original work. The Trio could surely not have finer advocates than these three violinists who give a very fine performance in a well appointed recording.

Despić’s Sonata for solo violin is played by Dušica Mladenović who has been a member of the Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra. According to the Trio’s website she takes special pride in her work as a violin teacher in the Petar Konjović Music School. She also values her exceptionally talented students, who have won prestigious awards and prizes in many national and international music competitions. Epithets describing her include “kind-hearted, intelligent, positive, sociable and ambitious, friendly, candid, energetic, enterprising”. Dušica certainly plays this very demanding work with great commitment. The Sonata was written in 1986 and, we are told, must be played emphatically and with precise rhythm; this to my ears she achieves. Like Bach’s Partitas, this work has the opportunities for improvisation and cadenzas as in a concerto. Like the other works here, they need to be heard several times to appreciate the medium and doing so make the music seem less dissonant and rewarding. It’s certainly not late night music, nor suitable for driving but with concentration is well worth the effort. Mladenović’s pupils and orchestral colleagues are indeed fortunate.  

Belfast-born Ian Wilson, now in his mid-fifties, already has a varied and substantial output to his credit.  He has written over one hundred and fifty works, including chamber operas, concertos, string quartets, a range of orchestral and chamber music and multi-media pieces. Wilson’s works often bear a title suggesting some extra-musical inspiration although the music is never descriptive or programmatic. A fair number of his pieces that have been recorded have received reviews by MusicWeb International.

Ian Wilson’s “1927” for three violins was written for Trio Dominante, Belgrade’s first violin trio which Dušica Mladenović led before later founding the Anime Quartet and Trio. The work takes its inspiration from five paintings by Paul Klee, all executed in the year 1927 – ‘Wasserfall’, ‘Junger Garten’, ‘Garten am Bach’, ‘Abfahrt der Schiffe’ and ‘Abenteurer-Schiff’. I enjoyed this very much and felt that it was perhaps a kind of Irish impressionism. The Waterfall is clearly illustrative and the “Garden by the stream” has a quality that appealed. There is a dance in the fourth piece, whilst the final movement is more exploratory. Wilson did not intend an exploration of the paintings but sees them as the beginning. A review of the first performance described the work as “strikingly original”, which is certainly true. For all that it shows, to me a lover of intimate chamber music, the ability to use the three violins to create images. Listeners open to new sounds and textures should certainly try this work.

The final item is Wilson’s Sonata for Solo Violin in three movements: Reeyill, Aire and Jigg. It is influenced by a traditional form of Irish music: reel, air, jig. It is played by Mladenović who again seems to convey the intricacies and above all the emotion of the three parts. Wilson explains that there is no particular “story” related to the work, rather it transforms and deconstructs old forms yet preserves their old characters. The central movement came from his extensive research into Irish “sean-nos” a highly ornamented style of unaccompanied traditional Irish singing, and in the singing of Ireland's Gaeltacht. Dušica plays this sometimes frantic, always spirited music with considerable skill. I would be interested in hearing more from him.

This is undoubtedly a challenging recital of modern chamber music that requires effort and commitment from the listener. I found it absorbing and worth the effort. The performers are to be congratulated.
David R Dunsmore

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