Matthias Bartolomey (cello): Klemens Bittmann (violin and mandola)
Recorded January and September 2018, Vienna
BartolomeyBittmann is the somewhat modish name for the two-man string duo
of Viennese-born Matthias Bartolomey (cello) and Klemens Bittmann (violin
and mandola). This is now their third album, the first, called Meridian, having been released back in 2013.
The eleven tracks, all with single, very descriptive titles mostly run
between five and seven minutes; quite enough time for the duo to establish
their by now trademark grooves, which include an accommodation of
classical, jazz and supercharged rock, allied to a small dose of
Austrian-sounding folk music. It all makes for a heady stylistic brew.
Their penchant for warmly textured melodies (Elefant) is almost
invariably accompanied by a pulse-quickening acceleration of rhythm and
broadening of texture to include power percussion courtesy of their string
instruments. For a duo they generate a righteous amount of noise, their
raunchy rocky vibe (Neptun) heavy on the unisons and appealing to
the senses. This propensity for kicking rhythms brings a Nymanesque quality
to their playing from time to time (listen to Dynamo, the title
track), though their ease in the jazz lexicon is equally audible on this
track where Bittmann’s Ponty-like fiddle solo snakes revealingly through
the light grass, coiling over Bartolomey’s pizzicati, before a rock groove
Their ability to fusE ballad elegance with motor rhythmic yitesse
and power in the space of a single song is engaging and sometimes harmonies
expand to include vaguely Eastern, but definably folkloric trace elements,
as in Krystallos, where cello percussive taps add their own
colour. There’s a pensive element to Haim and a memorialising one
to Viadukt, which bears a dedication to Didier Lockwood and
undulates expressively. But Westen brings back the rocky raunch,
which burgeons into folksy paragraphs that take in Bluegrass, the music
moving inexorably forward in terms of rhythm, mass and intensity to an
explosive Guitar Hero peroration.
If this all sounds just too much for you, Aurora offers shimmering
breadth and the envoi, Menuett evokes a lute ensemble in its
classically-oriented restful, Baroque-leaning close.
ACT is one of the most exciting and broad-ranging labels on the scene today
and they have another winner with this dynamic duo.