Music for Wistful Moments
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This beautifully programmed CD presents three settings for viola and orchestra and a more eloquent statement about the beauty of the viola as an instrument would be hard to imagine (except for perhaps including Vaughan Williams' 'Flos Campi'). The viola finds that middle voice between violin and cello, a rich tone with a built in quality of mournfulness. That quality has inspired the works on this recording and the result is some of the more wistful music ever written.
Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra with the superb violist Kim Kashkashian. The opening work is funeral music ('Trauermusik') written by Paul Hindemith. The orchestra freely quotes from the 'Grablegung' movement of Hindemith's hauntingly beautiful 'Symphony, Mathis der Maler', the viola emerging and receding into the orchestral fabric with plangent intensity. Sir Benjamin Britten's setting for small string orchestra and viola of his 'Lachrymae, reflections on a song of Dowland' follows, demonstrating how this elegant set of theme and variations has successfully been transposed into different settings, each of which is unique (viola and piano, viola and harp, and this viola with strings).
The final work is the stunningly beautiful and rarely heard Viola Concerto by Krzysztof Penderecki. For those unfamiliar with the Polish composer's chamber works the highly personal sound of this work may come as a surprise. For a composer who has relied on sonically acerbic effects for his larger works, this piece is a minimalist diversion.
The performances and the recorded sound are first rate. This CD is another instance when programming is sensitive and interrelated and provides the listener with an extended mood of languorous beauty. Grady Harp, July 05"
A melancholy, searching album
Grady Harp | 04/28/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The character of the viola is a difficult thing to pin down. The more adjective one applies to it, the more elusive it becomes. Certainly, the words melancholy and dark are often applied, and they are especially applicable here. The cd opens with Hindemith's beautiful Trauermusik, written in a day(!) for the death of England's King George V in 1936. Though it borrows heavily from the second movement of his Mathis der Maler symphony, it is still a beautiful and moving elegy. Britten's Lachrymae is based upon music by one of England's great Renaissance composers, John Dowland. It is not often performed, and when it is, it is more often performed in the version for viola and piano. The Penderecki is distinctly more avant garde than the other two pieces, but it definitely has much to commend it."