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Folk Roots
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Sonata for violin and piano (1922) [16:51]
Sándor VERESS (1907-1992)
Sonata for solo violin (1935) [13:40]
Heinz HOLLIGER (b. 1939)
Frühlingstanz (2001) [1:45]
George ENESCU (1881-1955)
Airs dans le genre Roumain (1926) [9:08]
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Sonata for solo violin (1927) [11:00]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rhapsody No. 2 for violin and piano (1928) [10:46]
Maia Cabeza (violin)
Zoltán Fenjévári (piano)
Alexandras Giovanos (percussion)
rec. 2019, Jesus-Christus Kirche, Berlin
GENUIN GEN20689 [61:17]

The Canadian violinist Maia Cabeza has made a strong impression in recent competitions, including the International Violin Competition Leopold Mozart in Augsburg and the Johann Sebastian Bach Competition in Leipzig. Her portfolio of performances across the world is also impressive and growing.

This imaginative collection of compositions inspired in various ways by folk music traditions serves not only as a showcase for Cabeza’s talents, but works equally well as a satisfying musical experience. There is a real sense of unity and imagination about the programme. It helped no doubt that it was all recorded within a three-day period in the Jesus-Christus Kirche in Berlin, whose helpful acoustic has served artists well over many years. In fact, the sensitivity and accuracy of the recorded sound is one of the most appealing factors of this rewarding issue.

Leoš Janáček’s Violin Sonata gets the programme off to a splendid start. The opening phrase makes a striking impression in setting the tone, and the exploratory and imaginative writing for the violin and piano combination is the most important feature of the work. In fact, that opening provides the germ from which the whole sonata grows, since treatments of it are found at many points. Cabeza and her excellent pianist Fenjévári articulate these strong contrasts, in particular between graceful, extended melodic lines, and sudden, rhythmic bursts. In the third movement folk dances make their presence felt, while the finale brings an almost elegiac mood.

Sándor Veress was a pupil of Zoltán Kodály, so it is no surprise that the folk idiom plays an important part in his skilfully constructed Sonata for solo violin. The music ranges from the vibrant energy of the opening movement with its constant complexities of rhythm and metre, to the heart of the work, the extended slow movement with its lamenting character well captured by the violinist’s beautifully judged tone.

Heinz Holliger’s Spring Dance comes from his larger work COncErto? (sic), a cycle of various instrumental combinations from 2001 dedicated to the musicians of the Chamber Orchesra of Europe. In this brief composition, percussion has an important role in offsetting the line played by the violin, through complex configurations and changing accents.

Romanian folk music inspired many musicians, including Bartók of course, but none more directly so than George Enescu, a composer whose profile seems to grow with each passing year. His career developed particularly in Paris, where he formed professional friendships with many notable musicians, not least Yehudi Menuhin, for whom his violin compositions were often conceived. The Airs dans le genre Roumain has the alternative title Violin Sonata No. 3, implying that the musical balance and construction is thoroughly developed; and these strengths are certainly to be found in this strongly characterised performance.

Erwin Schulhoff’s musical style is nothing if not eclectic, with influences ranging from Schoenberg and Berg to Dadaism and jazz. Thus ‘entertainment music’ makes its presence felt in his Sonata for solo violin, whose highlight is surely the scherzo in the nature of a wild perpetuum mobile.

The two movements of Bartók’s second Rhapsody, slow and fast, derive from the celebrated Verbunkos tradition associated with army recruiting dances, as the tensions build up leading to release. Among twentieth century composers who worked in the folk tradition, none is more significant than Bartók, so this makes an ideal conclusion to a most imaginatively planned recital.

Terry Barfoot

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