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Violeta Vicci (viola/violin, vocals)
Mirror Images
Ragnar SÖDERLIND (b.1945)
Elegia II Op 6b for Solo Violin (1966) [3:50]
Violeta VICCI (b.1986)
Improvisation I [0:49]; Improvisation II [2:02]; Improvisation III [2:00]; Improvisation IV [3:26]; Improvisation V [1:36]; Improvisation VI [2:49]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita for solo violin No 3 in E major, BWV1006 [13:12]
Cello Suite No 5 in C minor, BWV1011 [3:01]
Imogen HOLST (1907-1984)
Suite for Solo Viola (1930) (world premiere recording) [9:17]
Jean-Louis FLORENTZ (1947-2004)
Vocalise (Ad libitum, lointain mystérieux) [4:33]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonata for solo violin in A minor, Op 27 No 2 “A Jacques Thibaud” (1923) [14:19]
rec. 7-12 November 2018, Space Mountain Studios, Spain.

‘Mirror Images’ is the title chosen for this eclectic collection. The publicity from Aldila advises that the title is owing to the juxtaposition of Bach and Ysaye, who wrote violin sonatas two centuries apart. Also, of considerable interest is the first recording of the Suite for Solo Viola by Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav and a renowned musician in her own right. Violeta Vicci (born Violeta Barrena Witschi) is of Spanish-Swiss descent. She commenced playing at the age of 4 making her concert debut when she was 15. She studied at the Royal Academy of Music and is based in London, performing throughout the world. Very much a visual artist, Vicci and her performances can be found on You Tube as well as her website where she started live-streamed concerts in reaction to the COVID19 pandemic. She has made several recordings previously but this release is my first experience of her playing and it’s certainly an interesting and varied selection.

Violeta starts with a short piece from Ragnar Söderlind. This I find difficult to relate to but it’s certainly worth hearing and is affectingly performed. The Bach Partita is more familiar territory and Vicci certainly plays this in an accomplished manner. I tend to prefer my Bach accompanied but can appreciate the qualities here. She shows her understanding of the music and I felt she was projecting Bach to the listener; this certainly wasn’t cold or technical. The famous “Gavotte” transcribed for guitar by Andrés Segovia is a highlight. After a short piece by Vicci herself she turns to Imogen Holst. I thought very highly of this and am delighted that it has been recorded. Like Haydn and Mozart, I prefer the sonority of the viola and here it is used in a most enterprising manner. I don’t think one could call this a comfortable work and it’s not possible to assimilate it on early listens. Of the four movements, the least impressive was the opening Prelude but stick with it and the whole work makes sense of the sonorities. I’d certainly like to hear this live.

As well as violin and viola, Vicci also vocalises and an example of this is a 1985 work by Jean-Louis Florentz, who studied with Olivier Messiaen and Pierre Schaeffer. This illustrates the purity of her voice; I can’t say more than it was “original” and apparently anchored in Ethiopian liturgy and Middle Eastern chant. The music may appeal more to others. As for her own short pieces, they are perfect soundtracks either for her videos or for an arthouse film; not easy listening but not to be ignored. She certainly has compositional talent and again shows real ability to communicate; a fine example is Improvisation IV before she vocalises effectively on her own Improvisation V. Her voice is certainly very pure. Eugène Ysaÿe’s second Sonata was one of six and is dedicated to Jacques Thibaud who is probably most famous for being part of a Trio with Alfred Cortot and Pablo Casals. I would like to direct the interested listener to a review of the sonatas as performed by Niklas Walentin (Naxos), by Glyn Pursglove (review). Glyn states that, too often, it seems, they have been regarded primarily as a test of a violinist’s technique, almost as display pieces, so that the audience’s primary reaction will relate to a performer’s technical skills rather than the quality of Ysaÿe’s music. He goes into further discussion on this particular work. I can appreciate the technical expertise to perform such a complex work and it certainly does “mirror” Bach. That said, it communicates a real desire to ‘converse’ with the listener and this was very beneficial to someone whose knowledge of this repertoire is only of a general nature. There is a further vocalise Improvisation VI where Vicci accompanies herself; presumably not recorded at the same time! It’s haunting with a pipe-like drone and a feeling of loss. It works well in the context of the concept. The album ends with a highly wistful transcription of Bach’s Sarabande from his Fifth Cello Suite. With its sonorities, like the rest of the recital beautifully captured by the engineers, it makes for is a highly appropriate if somewhat desolate conclusion.

This is an album that is very well conceived and certainly wasn’t what I originally expected. The Holst may well be what draws in certain listeners but for a CD that seems to be very apt for the present times, this is a fine accomplishment. With such musical sense and communication skills the future looks very bright for Violeta Vicci.

David R Dunsmore

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