Notes and Editorial Reviews
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
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
, 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
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
Works on This Recording
Suite for Viola and Piano by Ernest Bloch
Barbara Buntrock (Viola),
Daniel Heide (Piano)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1919; USA
Sonata for Viola and Piano: I. Impetuoso - Poco agitato
Sonata for Viola and Piano: II. Vivace
Sonata for Viola and Piano: III. Adagio
Sonata No. 4 for Viola and Piano, Op. 11: I. Fantasie
Sonata No. 4 for Viola and Piano, Op. 11: II. Thema mit Variationen
Sonata No. 4 for Viola and Piano, Op. 11: III. Finale (Mit Variationen)
Suite for Viola and Piano: I. Lento - Allegro - Moderato
Suite for Viola and Piano: II. Allegro ironico
Suite for Viola and Piano: III. Lento
Suite for Viola and Piano: IV. Molto vivo
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