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Romantic Showpieces For Viola / Mark Neumann

Hummel / Schumann / Bruch / Neumann / Anna Ho
Release Date: 01/12/2010 
Label:  Aca Digital   Catalog #: 20097   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Nepomuk HummelRobert SchumannHenri VieuxtempsCarl Maria von Weber,   ... 
Performer:  Mark NeumannEn-Chi Anna Ho
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 14 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ROMANTIC SHOWPIECES FOR VIOLA Mark Neumann (va); En-chi Anna Ho (pn) ACA 20097 (74:34)

HUMMEL Fantasy. SCHUMANN Märchenbilder. ENESCU Pièce de Concert. SITT Konzertstück in g. VIEUXTEMPS Elegie. Read more class="COMPOSER12">BRUCH Romanze. WEBER Andante e Rondo Ungarese

Canadian violist Mark Neumann earned his bachelor’s of music degree as a violinist and his master’s of music as a violist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. He then went on to earn his doctorate of musical arts at Juilliard in 1995. His principal teachers have included Karen Tuttle, chair of the viola department at Juilliard, and Robert Vernon, principal viola of the Cleveland Orchestra. Neumann has pursued an active performing career, and is currently the Associate Professor of Viola at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. He recently assumed this new appointment after moving to OU from the University of Georgia (where this album was recorded.)

Neumann, who provided the booklet notes for this album, begins by lamenting the viola’s chronic under-representation in the works of the Romantic period, citing Berlioz’s Harold in Italy and the two sonatas by Brahms (though originally for clarinet) as the major contributions to the instrument’s repertoire by 19th-century composers. Then, as if to prove himself wrong, and to his great credit, instead of choosing pieces originally written for other instruments in transcription, as many players do, Neumann builds a winning program around original viola compositions. I suspect that much of the material here will be as unfamiliar to a majority of readers as it was to me.

The three items most likely to be recognized are (1) Bruch’s 1911 Romanze , op. 85, a late work from the composer’s pen that has enjoyed multiple recordings in both its original version for viola and orchestra and in its adaptation for viola and piano; (2) Schumann’s Märchenbilder (“Fairytale Pictures”) from 1851, for which the composer provided an alternate version for violin, but which, ironically, is heard almost as often in a transcription for cello by Alfredo Piatti as it is in its original for viola; and (3) the Elegie, op. 30, by the famed Belgian violin virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps. It too has had a number of recordings, including one on Chandos with Nobuko Imai and Roger Vignoles, though, unfortunately, the main fare on that disc is a viola version of Franck’s A-Major Violin Sonata, a transcription that, in my opinion, has even less to recommend it than the more frequently played version for cello.

New to me, and, pardon the presumption, but I’m guessing to most readers as well, is Hummel’s Fantasy. But then again, maybe not, for after perusing the composer’s complete works list and not finding any entry for such a piece for viola, I read further in Neumann’s note and learned that the actual title of the work is Potpourri in G Minor for Viola and Orchestra, op. 94, “Fantasie.” And it was only then, after checking the recorded listings, that I recalled having the piece on a Chandos CD with James Ehnes (see feature review by Michael Carter in 28:3). Hummel bases his Potpourri on themes from two of Mozart’s operas (“Il mio tesoro” from Don Giovanni and “Se vuol ballare” from Le nozze di Figaro ).

Hans Sitt (1850–1922) is best remembered by generations of violin students for his pedagogical études and study methods. But he also wrote works intended for concert performance, among which are a Bolero and the Konzertstück in G Minor, op. 46, heard here, which appeared in 1892. Designed as a three-movements-in-one mini-concerto, the piece is in the style of Bruch and other late German Romantics of a musically conservative persuasion, and it has the viola jumping through a number of virtuosic hoops.

I find no other current listings for Sitt’s Konzertstück, but Enescu’s 1906 Pièce de Concert , a French-scented item written for a competition sponsored by the Paris Conservatory, was recorded for RCA by violist Yuri Bashmet. Neumann’s note doesn’t tell us if Enescu’s submission won first prize, but the piece, more or less in free sonata form, flirts with Fauré and early Debussy.

Weber’s Andante e Rondo Ungarese , op. 35, has had quite a few outings on disc, but by an almost 3:1 ratio, in its composer-revised version for bassoon and orchestra. Its original viola version is no stranger to CD, either, and has had a very fine recording by Gérard Caussé in its orchestral guise, but Neumann’s is the only current listing I find in the version for viola and piano. The Gypsy-styled Rondo, which is the main business of the piece, is about as close to authentic Romani music as a cheap cologne is to Chanel No. 5, but it provides Weber with a platform for “elaborately brilliant and rapid passages for the viola, whose exuberant final fusillade of skyrocketing runs and chords brings the work to a triumphant close.”

The viola and its players have been the butt of more jokes than have any other instrument or musicians, the whys and wherefores of which are a mystery. But if any recording featuring the viola can silence the jokesters and punsters, this may be it. Mark Neumann is a fantastic player who can traverse the technically taxing Teutonic terrain of Weber and Sitt undaunted, while spinning strands of silken tone in the French-fried Enescu and Vieuxtemps. Accompanist En-chi Anna Ho occasionally sounds a bit self-effacing, but these works are the violist’s show. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
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Works on This Recording

Potpourri for Viola and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 94 "Fantasia" by Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Performer:  Mark Neumann (Viola), En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1820; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 7 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Märchenbilder for Viola and Piano, Op. 113 by Robert Schumann
Performer:  En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano), Mark Neumann (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1851; Germany 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 15 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Elegie for Viola and Piano, Op. 30 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano), Mark Neumann (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1854; France 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 7 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Andante and Rondo Ungarese for Viola and Orchestra in C minor, J 79 by Carl Maria von Weber
Performer:  En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano), Mark Neumann (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1809/1813; Germany 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 10 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Romance for Viola and Orchestra, Op. 85 by Max Bruch
Performer:  Mark Neumann (Viola), En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; Germany 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 8 Minutes 10 Secs. 
Concert Piece for Viola and Piano by George Enescu
Performer:  En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano), Mark Neumann (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Romania 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 9 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Konzertstück, for viola & piano in G minor, Op. 46 by Hans Sitt
Performer:  En-Chi Anna Ho (Piano), Mark Neumann (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1891-1892 
Venue:  Ramsey Concert Hall at The University of 
Length: 15 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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