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1919: Viola Sonatas - Clarke, Hindemith, Bloch

Clarke / Buntrock / Heide
Release Date: 03/11/2014 
Label:  Cavi Music   Catalog #: 8553304   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Rebecca ClarkePaul HindemithErnest Bloch
Performer:  Barbara BuntrockDaniel Heide
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CLARKE Viola Sonata. HINDEMITH Viola Sonata , op. 11/4. BLOCH Suite for Viola and Piano Barbara Buntrock (va); Daniel Heide (pn) AVI 8553304 (70:25)

This disc is titled 1919 Viola Sonatas . It was a great vintage; these are three of the loveliest pieces written for the Read more instrument. Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata and Ernest Bloch’s Suite were entered in the same competition, sponsored by Elisabeth Sprague Coolidge; the judges showed enormous good sense by awarding two first prizes. If Hindemith’s and Bloch’s works are efforts worthy of two burgeoning masters, Clarke’s was an unexpected triumph from an unknown composer who would become merely well regarded. Each of its three movements has everything a late or post-Romantic work could offer: soaring melodies, powerful outbursts, fluent if demanding writing for both instruments, intriguing, satisfying harmonies, and convincing developments of its ideas. The long finale is marked Adagio , but it encompasses various moods.

Hindemith’s op. 11/4—written moments before the 24-year-old composer switched to wild, avant-garde writing—is his most Romantic, most lyrical outpouring in any form, opening with a phrase so beautiful that it is almost always placed to lead off a CD. Again a long finale (with variations, this time) is a magnificent conclusion.

Bloch was 15 years older than Clarke and Hindemith, and his greater experience led to a more studied, more subtle approach; his heart is entwined in the music rather than worn on the sleeve. There are suggestions of a Debussian modal approach to harmony and a vague whiff of Bloch’s so-called “Jewish” music. A Molto vivo finale limns an oriental exoticism.

These performances are marvelous. Barbara Buntrock is a young German violist who has won the obligatory prizes; more importantly, she produces the easy suave tones demanded by these three works, and has a fine feeling for their many subtleties. Pianist Daniel Heide is, if possible, even better. A perfect partner, he also supplies the considerable virtuosity required at moments in all three works, and does it all with sparkling tones across the keyboard over a wide dynamic range. They sound as if they had been playing this music together for ages. Most performers play this Hindemith Sonata for its full Romantic rapture—which has always worked for me; Buntrock and Heide never stretch phrases or lean on cadences. I found their performance a bit square at first but quickly grew to agree with them on multiple hearings.

Avi’s recorded sound has a gleaming presence that shines on both instruments; the viola is rich and deep, the piano surrounds but never overpowers the viola. I haven’t reviewed the candidates for my Want List lately, but this wonderful disc certainly deserves consideration.

FANFARE: James H. North
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for Viola/Cello and Piano by Rebecca Clarke
Performer:  Barbara Buntrock (Viola), Daniel Heide (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; England 
Sonata for Viola and Piano in F major, Op. 11 no 4 by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Barbara Buntrock (Viola), Daniel Heide (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; Germany 
Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch
Performer:  Barbara Buntrock (Viola), Daniel Heide (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; USA 

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