01 James EhnesWhat more is there to say about James Ehnes? He’s simply one of the best violinists in the world, and an artist whose performances tend to leave you scrambling for superlatives. Not surprisingly, that’s the case with his latest CD release, perhaps rather surprisingly his first recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major Op.61, on Beethoven Violin Concerto, Romances; Schubert Rondo, with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Andrew Manze (ONYX 4167).

It’s a quite sumptuous performance, with Ehnes’ complete technical and musical command and glorious tone fully evident throughout. In a work which mostly eschews technical fireworks and concentrates on linear writing, Ehnes makes every melodic line sing. It may be a performance somewhat less animated than some current approaches to the work, but it’s one of great beauty, silky smoothness and assurance. Manze, an early music violinist turned conductor, draws a stylistically appropriate accompaniment from the orchestra. The cadenzas for the outer movements are by Kreisler (not always used these days) and give Ehnes all the opportunity he could possibly want to display his dazzling technique.

The two Romances, No.1 in G Major Op.40 and No.2 in F Major Op.50, from around 1800, do not have the heft of the concerto, but are much more than mere lightweights. Either one may have been intended as a possible slow movement for a projected C-major violin concerto begun in the late 1790s, and they sound lovely here.

Franz Schubert’s Rondo in A Major for Violin and Orchestra D438 is one of only three works – all for violin – that he wrote for solo instrument and orchestra. Composed when he was 19, it is full of typical Schubertian melody.

02 Michel CorretteThere’s a simply outstanding new CD from the Canadian west coast duo of violinist Paul Luchkow and harpsichordist Michael Jarvis of the six Sonatas for Harpsichord & Violin Op.25 by the 18th-century French composer Michel Corrette (Marquis MAR 81475).

The works date from around 1742 and were published with the usual description for the period as Sonates pour le Clavecin avec un Accompagnement de Violon, although the violin’s role here is clearly not merely subservient. As the excellent booklet notes point out, the keyboard writing is more symphonic in scale than simply melody with accompaniment, with the violin sharing the melodic role and enhancing the harpsichord’s orchestral texture.

The violin playing is sensitive and warm, and the harpsichord playing bright, clear and beautifully articulated. There’s sensitivity in the slow movements, dazzling virtuosity in the fast outer movements and superb ensemble playing throughout. It’s thoroughly engrossing music, fascinating and inventive with never a dull moment, and recorded with lovely ambience. All in all, an absolute delight.

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03 Violin Cello HarpThere’s more fine Canadian ensemble playing on Trios for Violin, Cello and Harp, featuring violinist Antoine Bareil, cellist Stéphane Tétreault and harpist Valérie Milot in works by Jacques Ibert and Henriette Renié (Analekta AN 2 9888).

The Ibert Trio is a really lovely work dating from 1944, although it seems to inhabit an earlier French world than that of the Second World War. The equally delightful Trio by the harpist and composer Renié, an exact contemporary of Ibert, is firmly in the style of that earlier age, having been written in 1901.

A selection of shorter works fills out the CD. Renié’s Danse des lutins is a virtuosic piece for solo harp that showcases Milot’s technique. Bareil and Tétreault combine for their own fireworks in the familiar Passacaglia by Johan Halvorsen before all three players reunite for their own adaptation of Schubert’s poignant song Lob der Tränen.

Bareil and Tétreault in particular are in wonderful form here, but there’s a lovely sound quality throughout the disc, with fine ensemble playing and great balance. It’s another delightful CD.

04 PiazaollaThe Argentinian-born violinist Tomás Cotik received rave reviews for his 2013 Tango Nuevo CD of music of Astor Piazzolla with Chinese-American pianist Tao Lin (available on Naxos 8.573166), and the duo mark the 25th anniversary of the legendary Argentinian composer’s death with the release of a second outstanding tango CD, Astor Piazzolla Legacy (Naxos 8.573789).

This new disc is essentially the concert program the duo put together following the success of the first CD, and features new adaptations of some of Cotik’s favourite Piazzolla works. They are joined at times by Jeffrey Kipperman on bass and Alex Wadner and Bradley Loudis on percussion. Four of the ten titles are arrangements by Osvaldo Calo, but the other six are adaptations by Cotik himself, including the central work on the CD, the superb four-movement Las cuatro estaciones porteňas (Four Seasons of Buenos Aires).

Cotik has a beautiful clarity and depth to his playing; Lin draws a simply gorgeous tone from the piano, and the bass and percussion contributions are used to great effect. Listening to Cotik brings to mind the saying about blues music: that you don’t play the blues, you live them. Cotik doesn’t just play tango music – he lives it. It’s absolutely captivating and intoxicating stuff.

05 American RomanticsAmerican Romantics II – Premiere Recordings of Turn of the Century Works for String Orchestra is a fascinating second CD in a series created by New York conductor Reuben Blundell promoting under-represented American music from the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th (New Focus Recordings FCR 166B). Blundell conducts the Gowanus Arts Ensemble, a group of NYC freelancers assembled specifically for the project.

The short works are all world premiere recordings, and for some of the composers it’s the first time any of their music has appeared on disc. There are 15 works here by 12 different composers: those represented are the English-born Félix Borowski; George Whitefield Chadwick; Arthur Foote; the German-born Paul Theodore Miersch; Ethelbert Nevin; Edgar Stillman Kelley; the Dutch-born Martinus van Gelder and Bernardus Boekelman; the French-born Louis Lombard; Arthur Bird; and Charles Wakefield Cadman. The Danish-born Carl Busch’s arrangements of two Stephen Foster songs open and close the CD.

The music is much of its time, as you would expect, but is no less accomplished and attractive for that; Lombard’s Puccini-esque Élégie is particularly lovely. The string ensemble is only ten players, but sounds much fuller and richer in simply lovely performances.

An extremely attractive digi-pak complements an original and highly satisfying release.

06 Serebrier GranadosJosé Serebrier leads the Concerto Málaga String Orchestra on Serebrier conducts Granados, the somewhat misleading title of a new CD from the SOMM Recordings Céleste Series (SOMMCD 0171).

Only five of the 16 short tracks are by Granados; the remaining 11 are by eight different composers, mostly emphasizing a connection with Barcelona, where Granados spent his entire working life. All five Granados tracks – Andaluza, Oriental, Pequeňa Romanza, El Himno de los Muertos and Intermezzo from Goyescas – are arrangements, as are Recuerdos de la Alhambra and Gran Vals by Francisco Tárrega and the famous Tango and Mallorca by Isaac Albéniz.

Nocturno is a lovely piece by Eduard Toldrà. Joaquim Malats’ Serenata Espaňola, Ruperto Chapi’s Nocturno and Enric Morera’s brooding Desolació are followed by the two earliest compositions on the disc, Jesús de Monasterio’s beautiful Andante Religioso from 1872 and Andantino Expresivo from 1881. Ricard Lamote de Grignon’s Lento Expresivo is a nice final track.

The playing is warm and idiomatic, although there’s not really a great deal for the orchestra to get their teeth into.

07 Ramon PausThere’s music by the contemporary Spanish composer Ramón Paús on Works for Viola, featuring the Israeli violist Yuval Gotlibovich, in the Naxos Spanish Classics series (8.573602). Paús, born in 1959, has worked extensively in the film, theatre and television worlds as well as the classical field.

Gotlibovich is joined by pianist Eduardo Fernández in Madera Ocaso (Wood Sunset) (2013), an extensive single-movement rhapsodic piece with modern touches and a very strong piano part. The Catalan Chamber Orchestra under Joan Pàmies form the accompaniment for the even more rhapsodic Cobalto azul, en tránsito (Cobalt blue, in transit) (2013), and the same performers are joined by violinist Raquel Castro and the ESMUC Chamber Choir male voices in the quite beautiful Elegía primera, la deriva (First elegy, the drift) (2014), an effective and moving work focusing on extreme loss. Gotlibovich displays a warm and beautiful tone throughout the instrument’s range.

Madera Ocaso was written for these two performers and Gotlibovich also gave the first performance of the other two works, the recording sessions for the Elegia primera beginning the day after its November 2015 premiere in Barcelona.

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08 Il RitornoMusic for violin and viola by American composer Michael Alec Rose is featured on Il Ritorno, with the English duo of violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved and violist Diana Mathews (Métier MSV 28574). There are two works for violin and viola and two for solo violin here, all of which were a result of the composer’s long friendship with the two performers. Mathews commissioned the opening work, Unturned Stones: Duo for Violin and Viola (2012), a three-movement piece that takes the study of landscape as a starting point but ventures much further afield, Rose’s extensive booklet notes quoting Talmudic study and Zen philosophy.

Mornington Caprice: Duo for Violin and Viola (2015) is the second caprice Rose has written for Mathews and was inspired by Frank Auerbach’s painting Mornington Crescent – Early Morning (1991). At under four minutes it takes longer to read and understand the booklet notes than it does to listen to the music.

By far the biggest work on the CD is the title track, subtitled Perambulation for Solo Violin (2013-2015). It was inspired and shaped by the composer’s obsession with Dartmoor in Devon, England, which he first visited in 1991 and which he describes as “the reigning metaphor” of his life; he has returned 18 times since then, hence the work’s title. The four pages of intense booklet notes make it clear that this work goes well beyond the purely physical appeal of the landscape suggested by the six movement titles: Preamble; Bearings; Silence; Water; Stone; and Song. Skærved is in quite superb form in a work which is certainly not lacking a tonal feel and that uses very little in the way of extreme technique; there is some remarkable playing here, especially in Stone.

The brief Diaphany (2016) for solo violin is a strong finish to the disc. It may be something of a challenge to fully understand the philosophical approach here, but there’s no doubting the strength and quality of the music.

09 Dorothy HindmanTightly Wound: Music for Strings is a 2CD set of works by the American composer Dorothy Hindman featuring 13 varied works played by a wide range of performers (Innova 965).

Hindman’s music is described as “a blend of punk/grunge with a spectralist sensibility,” although the differing styles of the works here would seem to suggest more; this is clearly music by a highly accomplished composer.

CD2 is by far the stronger of the two, with various pieces for guitar quartet (the terrific Taut), solo guitar, string quartet, amplified cello, and both solo violin and solo cello with fixed media. The exemplary performers include guitarist Paul Bowman, cellist Craig Hultgren, violinist Karen Bentley Pollick, the Corona Guitar Kvartet and the Amernet String Quartet.

01 Claude BakerMarc-André Hamelin’s new CD partners him with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra for a world premiere recording of the Claude Baker Piano Concerto “From Noon to Starry Night” (Naxos 8.559804).

Based on a poem by Walt Whitman, Baker’s work is highly detailed with many linkages to the structure of Whitman’s poem. Baker several times quotes well-known musical material to emphasize the programmatic content of both his music and Whitman’s poem.

The five-movement concerto is complex and presents considerable technical and interpretive challenges for the pianist. Hamelin’s performance integrates beautifully into this demanding ensemble requirement. He is particularly potent where he dominates the orchestra in pianissimo passages. For all its beauty, the work is one of very high tension. Baker is a brilliant composer and has the perfect pianist to premiere this remarkable work.

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02 PersichettiThe harpsichord has, of all period instruments, made the most successful transition to contemporary music. This is largely due to the extraordinary writing of American composer Vincent Persichetti. Christopher D. Lewis demonstrates why Persichetti’s music is so powerful, in his new release Persichetti Harpsichord Sonatas (Naxos 8.559843).

Five sonatas and the Serenade No.15 Op.161 sample the early period, mid-career and final year of the composer’s life (1915-1987). The growth and development of his language for this instrument is subtle. Always leaning toward melody and strong rhythmic elements, Persichetti became, if anything, more focused and incisive in his expression. The Serenade in particular, offers a splendid example of how Lewis grasps the composer’s idiom and conveys it convincingly. He’s clearly having a great deal of fun playing this music and relishes the extent of the technical challenge as well as the lovely melodic moments that mark all of Persichetti’s harpsichord works.

Well-programmed and wonderfully played, the disc delivers far more than a first glance might suggest. It reincarnates the harpsichord as a credible modern keyboard instrument.

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03 Ralph van RaatRalph van Raat is a pianist with a very catholic taste in music. His affection for rock, jazz, atonal serial music, and everything between them is accurately reflected in his decision to record Erik Lotichius: Anaitalrax – 25 virtuosic studies (Solaire SOL 1005 2-CD). Lotichius (1929-2015) was born in the Netherlands and composed in a style that was a deep fusion of seemingly countless influences. Traditional European classical voices and numerous American ones appear consistently throughout his very tonal and rhythmically driven music. Jazz, ragtime, blues, Broadway, Bach, Bartók, Debussy and Ravel are easy to identify, but it’s the amalgams that emerge as the unique voice of this little-known composer.

Van Raat performs these 25 studies as if they were meditations, sustaining the composer’s mantra-like phrases and hypnotic rhythms to great effect. Lotichius is a master at capturing more than just your ear, he wants your emotional attention and knows how to get it. This 2CD set includes an extensive and enlightening biography of the composer as well as some engaging thoughts from both the performer and the recording’s producer.

04 SzymanowskyBarbara Karaskiewicz has compiled a fascinating program in her recording Karol Szymanowski Piano Music (Divine Art DDA 25151). It forms a survey of the composer’s work covering nearly 40 years, beginning with Nine Preludes Op.1, written in 1900. The presence of Chopin is immediately detectable along with vocabulary reminiscent of some Brahms Intermezzi. There is a familiar fluidity and nostalgic ethos that pervades the music. Karaskiewicz plays these beautifully, bringing forward the composer’s unique voice. The Four Etudes Op.4 reveal the influence of early modernism, with some careful tonal experimentation that Karaskiewicz integrates quite naturally into the character of the pieces.

Szymanowski’s output is generally considered to fall into two periods, of which the second is strongly influenced by Eastern motifs and subject matter. The exotic elements of Scheherazade from Masques Op.34 take advantage of the angular melodies and dissonant harmonies of the period’s emerging contemporary music.

Karaskiewicz’s programming arch covers a considerable distance and concludes with Two Mazurkas Op.62 that reveal the fading but ever-present influence of Chopin in Szymanowski’s music.

05 Cloak with StarsThe Cloak with the Stars – Music for organ by Carson Cooman Vol.6 (Divine Art dda 25159) is a selection of works by this American composer and organist. Erik Simmons recorded several of the earlier volumes in this series and now enjoys an established reputation for a level of expertise with Cooman’s repertoire. Simmons performs using the Hauptwerk system digital sampling technology, and data from the organ of the Abbey of Saint-Etienne, Caen, France. The instrument was built by Cavaille-Coll in 1882-85 and despite its age, is the newest of numerous organs that have been in the Abbey since its founding by William the Conqueror in 1066.

One of Cooman’s strengths as a composer is his ability to use programmatic material. He remains free enough to create highly atmospheric works that deliver more of a feel about the subject matter than a linear storyline. Three St. Francis Legends is an excellent example. The disc’s finest track, however, is Diptych for a New Life, a tribute to the life-giving imagery of the sun. Cooman’s writing is colourful and highly effective.

06 Andreas WillscherAs an organist, Carson Cooman continues to add new recordings to his growing catalogue of “virtual” pipe organ performances. Andreas Willscher Organ Symphonies 19 & 20 (Divine Art dda 25162) is the latest and once again uses the increasingly ubiquitous Hauptwerk digital sampling system. The instrument captured on this recording is the 1868 Edmund Schulze in the Church of St. Bartholomew, Armley, Leeds, England. It’s a substantial instrument of 55 stops over five divisions. Judging from the acoustic space heard in the recording, the church is large and suits the instrument perfectly. A curious piece of history recounts how the organ was originally placed in a building too small for its size and volume, lasting only a decade there before being sold and installed in its present location.

Cooman’s program for this disc focuses on the work of German composer and organist Andreas Willscher (b.1955). His compositional language for the instrument is deeply traditional yet freely incorporates catchy contemporary rhythms along with carefully applied contemporary tonalities. The 1974 work Beatitudes is a remarkable piece for a then 19-year-old composer. The major works on the recording, the Symphonies 19 and 20, are both far bolder expressions. They also reflect Willscher’s lifetime experience writing for the organ, learning to exploit its vast range of colours and dynamics.

07 Lise de la SalleLise De La Salle has recorded her ninth disc, Bach Unlimited (Naïve V5444). Two of her previous CDs have included some Bach, as does this new one. Despite its title, the only Bach work is the Italian Concerto in F Major BWV971 that opens the disc. It’s a stunning performance; driven, flawlessly controlled, and fast. Really fast. The last movement just leaves you shaking your head.

To underscore the impact Bach’s music has had on her piano career, De La Salle performs several well-known works that use a B-A-C-H motif (B-flat, A, C, B) by Liszt, Poulenc and contemporary composer Thomas Enhco. She also includes Busoni’s transcription of the Chaconne in D Minor BWV1004 and Albert Roussel’s Prélude and Fugue Op.46. Enhco has, however, written several works based on Bach’s Chaconne, the Italian Concerto and Goldberg Variations, and De La Salle includes all of these in her performance program.

It’s an eclectic approach that works well under De La Salle’s hands. She’s a powerful player, versatile and completely in command of whatever repertoire she performs.

08 Late BeethovenIshay Shaer has recorded his second CD in what should be the beginning of a very promising career. Late Beethoven (Orchid Classics ORC 10076) includes the Sonatas No.28 in A Major Op.101 and No.30 in E Major Op.109 along with the Bagatelles of Opp.126 and 119. Beethoven was never overly impressed with what he felt the Bagatelles had to offer, but we see them more charitably today and Shaer has a way of rendering them that advances our own desire to know Beethoven better.

The real impact of this disc is in the exceptional and sensitive performance that Shaer brings to the two sonatas. He plays from inside the works with profound affection. Both sonatas have a great deal of introspective opportunity and Shaer never misses the chance to explore a little deeper. He seems to have a vision of a vulnerable Beethoven we seldom see.

Shaer’s command of the powerful, explosive passages is entirely convincing. But perhaps his choice of these two sonatas, very much alike in their emotional content, says more about where this young pianist has the capability to go.

09 Belle EpochLeslie Howard and Mattia Ometto collaborate as duo pianists in Belle Epoque Reynaldo Hahn – Complete Works for two pianos and piano duet (Melba MR 301148-49). Howard steps away from his lifetime role a solo pianist to play Hahn’s repertoire for two pianos and piano four hands. His performance partner Mattia Ometto carries impeccable credentials and the pair have created a splendid two-disc set that opens with Douze Valses à deux pianos. These are pure period works just fizzing with ballroom champagne. The duo next move into more serious repertoire, some of which Hahn wrote before the turn of the century. The loveliness of Hahn’s writing makes an immediate impact, especially in Scherzo lent pour deux pianos. Disc 2 continues with ever more thoughtful writing and performance. The set includes three world premiere recordings of Hahn’s work.

As piano duos go, great value is placed on the merger of two artists into a larger entity that becomes the duo. While this is obviously true in the case of Howard and Ometto, there is, nevertheless, a wonderful element of individualism at work in this pair. It’s most evident when they’re each at their own keyboard and it breathes a fresh creative spark into their playing.

10 David CheskyDavid Chesky is a prolific composer with nearly a hundred works to his credit. He has written for every conceivable classical form and has made his reputation by doing it in studio with the aid of the latest technology, especially in his large-scale compositions. This recording, David Chesky Piano Concertos 2 & 3 - Orchestra of the 21st Century (Chesky Records JD404), is his remarkable foray into the piano concerto form. Inspired by the chaos of New York City, the concertos are extremely high-energy works written and played at an impressive level of excellence.

Composer/pianist Chesky’s style is a fusion of the many influences in his creative life. It’s all there: classical music, rock, jazz, Latin strains, traffic chaos, etc. The elements are beautifully conceived and drawn into a contemporary tapestry that incorporates many familiar threads. The result is a music that is at once recognizable yet exhilaratingly modern.

Chesky’s ability as composer, orchestrator, performer and producer are remarkable. It’s an incredible disc that makes a lasting impression.

01 Paris 1804Paris 1804 – Music for Horn & Strings
Alessandro Denabian; Quartetto Delfico
Passacaille 1032 (denabian.com)

Despite the political, economic and social turmoil that plagued France during the years following the revolution, musical activities carried on as best they could. Paris remained the centre of European culture and while concert societies were now a thing of the past, the period saw the establishment of the Conservatoire in 1795. Such is the background for this attractively packaged disc of music for natural horn and string quartet by Cherubini, Dauprat and Reicha titled Paris 1804 and featuring Alessandro Denabian with the Quartetto Delfico.

Cherubini arrived in the French capital in 1786 and ultimately enjoyed a long association with the Conservatoire. His two short sonatas for horn are lyrical pieces closer in style to études. The first has a slow introduction followed by a jovial second movement while the second sonata is a single-movement Larghetto.

More ambitious are the Quintet Op.6 No.3 by Louis François Dauprat and the Grand Quintet Op.106 by Anton Reicha. Although hardly a household name today, Dauprat was renowned as a horn player, composer and music professor at the Conservatoire. The quintet is one of innumerable works he wrote for horn, the three contrasting movements providing the soloist ample opportunity to demonstrate the instrument’s capabilities. What strikes the listener here and throughout the disc is the wonderful sense of intimacy achieved, the transparency of the strings blending perfectly with the solo horn. Denabian proves himself to be a true virtuoso, handling the technical demands of a natural horn with apparent ease.

Reicha’s more familiar Grand Quintet is a true tour de force, a model of classical symphonic writing with a rollicking finale that brings the piece – and the CD – to a fitting conclusion.

02 Bach SevastianJ.S.Bach – Famous Works
Alexander Sevastian
Analekta AN 2 9136 (analekta.com)

Well known and loved by his Quartetto Gelato audiences and fans, accordionist Alexander Sevastian performs a number of solo transcriptions of J.S. Bach’s most loved repertoire with clarity, virtuosity, spirit and respect for Baroque style. Today most serious accordionists will have played Bach since his music, regardless of original instrumentation, translates extremely well to the instrument. Unlike the Stradella left-hand chord system, Sevastian plays a free bass bayan accordion where the left-hand buttons are arranged in single-tone patterns thus allowing a wide range of melodic and chordal possibilities in both hands. Registers (much like organ stops) increase the pitch range and colour possibilities.

Bach lovers are guaranteed to respect and admire Sevastian’s performances. The Prelude and Fugue in A Minor features solid but not overpowering left-hand held notes against rapid right-hand lines in the Prelude. There is a clear differentiation of voices in the Fugue, especially in the low-voice entry thanks to Sevastian’s understanding of reed response. In contrast, the emotionally sensitive melodic performance of Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ showcases touching musicality grounded by solid rhythmic direction and cadence resolutions, attributes of a great accordion master. Sevastian’s detailed understanding of bellow-sound production drives with precision the fast lines and full harmonies in the Toccata from Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

There are two musical wonders sounding simultaneously here – Bach’s compositions and Sevastian’s accordion musicianship. Both are remarkable.

03 Vincent LauzerSonates pour Flûte à Bec et Basson
Vincent Lauzer; Mathieu Lussier
ATMA ACD2 2753 (atmaclassique.com)

The alto recorder gained its greatest popularity with professional players, as well as with amateurs, round about 1730. The most popular form was the sonata for solo recorder and basso continuo, but sonatas for two recorders and continuo also became popular. This CD examines another variant: the trio sonata for treble recorder and bassoon with basso continuo. A CD devoted to these instruments could easily become repetitive but some variations are built in; while many of the works recorded show the interplay between the treble and the bass instruments, the first work on the CD (Vivaldi’s Sonata in A Minor) contains a slow movement which is really a recorder solo with the bassoon being part of the accompaniment. Moreover, further variety is provided by two works (by Chédeville and Telemann) being for recorder alone and two others (by Telemann and Fasch) for solo bassoon.

There are a number of first-rate recorder players in Montreal and Vincent Lauzer is among the very best. He excels both in sweetness of tone as well as the virtuosity which these sonatas require. He is ably partnered by the bassoon player, Mathieu Lussier. Anyone who thinks of the bassoon as just a useful bass accompaniment will be struck by the singing tone Lussier achieves.

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04 Bach Family ViolaViola Music of the Bach Family
Roger Myers; Céline Frisch
Notos NOTOS001 (rogmyers@austin.utexas.edu)

Music on this album brings up fragments of Baroque and Rococo worlds in the form of elegant phrases and courtly dances, lovely nuances and surprising virtuosity. As I was listening to this recording on a quiet, snowy day, I realized there was quite a resemblance between colours and textures of the Baroque viola sound and the feel of the winter day – both dark, somewhat restrained, but so rich in understated expression and depth.

In this fine selection of 18th-century viola repertoire there are sonatas by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Wilhelm Friedmann Bach and Johann Joachim Quantz, a movement from a concerto by Johann Cristoph Friedrich Bach and an aria from a cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach. Other than the obvious family connection between J.S.Bach and his sons, there is another one – the Court of Frederick the Great in Prussia. A big supporter of art and music, Frederick had assembled one of the finest orchestras of that time and employed many exceptional musicians, C.P.E. Bach and J.J. Quantz among them.

Roger Myers executes delightful and sensitive performances of these pieces and offers greatly detailed liner notes. His masterful tonal aesthetics and his virtuosity are most evident in the sonata by W.F.Bach; this composition showcases the viola’s darker sonorities while bringing forward the speed and brilliance of the virtuosic capabilities of the instrument, something that had not been heard before in the viola repertoire of the time. The chemistry between the performers is refreshing – Céline Frisch is every bit as poetic in her interpretation as she is virtuosic in her technique.

05 Pallade MusicaSchieferlein; Telemann and C.P.E. Bach – Sonates en trio
Pallade Musica
ATMA ACD2 2744 (atmaclassique.com)

The importance of this disc by Pallade Musica cannot be overstated, for without the compelling performance of three sonatas Otto Schieferlein might have remained the historically curious academic that he has been for almost 300 years. Although each of his three sonatas does not deviate far from the dictates of the Baroque era, with its contrapuntally driven form fashionable after J. S. Bach, there is a unique, languid elegance in the manner in which each of the sonatas flows.

Moreover, Sonata No. 2 in F Major is extended by a slender, statuesque French Menuet, a gorgeous five-minute depiction of the vivid spectacle that often filled 17th-century ballrooms. The sonatas demonstrate Schieferlein’s skill at plumbing the depths of feeling. In sweeping movements Sonata No.1 in E Minor evokes dark and light, the solemn and the sparkling through interweaving lines of unflinching passion. The writing here as well as in Sonata No.3 in A Major is at once fierce, haunting and mystical.

Georg Telemann’s Trio Sonata, and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Fantasia in D Major and Sonata in G Major for flute, violin and continuo, are not mere musical appendages. Each has individual character. The willowy sinews of Telemann’s sonata break through the balletic Siciliana movement to the spikey energy of the final Allegro assai. And the Fantasia and Sonata by C.P.E. Bach are quiet personal evidence of an inspired artistic genius.

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