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Beethoven, Lutoslawski, Etc / Sheila Browne, Wesley Baldwin


Release Date: 11/28/2006 
Label:  Centaur Records   Catalog #: 2798   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Witold LutoslawskiRebecca ClarkeLudwig van BeethovenPaul Hindemith,   ... 
Performer:  Wesley BaldwinSheila Browne
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



LUTOS?AWSKI Bucolics. R. CLARKE Lullaby and Grotesque. BEETHOVEN String Duo, WoO 32, “Eyeglasses.” HINDEMITH Duet. D. COLEMAN Dezembrum. PISTON Duo Sheila Browne (va); Wesley Baldwin (vc) CENTAUR Read more 2798 (57:20)


This CD from 2005 captures two obviously congenial musical colleagues from the University of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in mostly 20th-century repertoire for viola and cello. The lone exception, Beethoven’s jovial Duo for Two Eyeglasses, has had surprisingly few recordings (comparatively speaking for a Beethoven work) since William Primrose and Emanuel Feuermann recorded it in 1939. I think that many string duos are afraid of the inevitable comparison to that recording, which has stood the test of time very well.


The current disc has one anomaly in that the recorded sound favors the viola. It’s quite possible that Wesley Baldwin might have covered Sheila Browne somewhat, but for whatever reason, his rich cello tone is more pointed and less rounded. This works to an advantage in the Hindemith and Piston works, a little less so in the pieces by Lutos?awski, Clarke, and Beethoven—but this is just my personal feeling, and may not be yours.


I was both surprised and delighted by this particular Lutos?awski piece, written in a tonal idiom yet far from conventional or predictable. The notes give the reason for this: After his government-censured Symphony No. 1 (1947), the composer “was forced to make” compromises with his abstract style and use Polish folk idioms to “create utilitarian music ‘for the people.’” It’s difficult to discern whether this forced change in style is being criticized by the performers or not, as the performance itself is joyous, energetic, and totally involved emotionally. I, for one, find it to be one of Lutos?awski’s best compositions, not necessarily because of the tonal idiom (though to me, the medium doesn’t matter so much) but because of the way he allows his mind to play with these folk-like tunes. Within this ostensibly “regular” form, Lutos?awski continually changes meter and accents, divides the melodies between the two voices, and contrasts moods effectively and often. It is a great start to this disc for me.


Personally, I find the two pieces by Rebecca Clarke to be amusing and light but not memorable, despite an engagingly light touch by the two artists. The Beethoven duo comes off very well, as it usually does when you have two performers who get into its spirit of fun and don’t try to make more of it than it is. The Hindemith duet, written in one evening as a filler for his recording of the string trio with Szymon Goldberg and Feuermann, is one of his most playful pieces despite its atonal slant. As the notes put it, it has an atmosphere of mock weightiness using a dance theme interspersed with “thorny chords.” For whatever reason, Browne and Baldwin play it much slower than Hindemith and Feuermann did, stretching its four and a half minutes out to six and a quarter, but the interpretation itself is marvelous, and it works.


Dan Coleman’s Dezembrum was written for Browne and cellist Matthew Herren, who premiered the work. The composer describes it as “an ecstatic dance with a slow, lyrical, contemplative center,” and so despite its modern bent it is jovial and attractive. Compared to the lighthearted quality of the other pieces on this CD, the Piston duo is much more serious, but this doesn’t mean uncommunicative or obtuse. Piston allows his mind to play on the various themes similar to the way Lutos?awski varies Polish folk material in his piece. Indeed, Piston felt this one of his best works, and both Browne and Baldwin play it with style and conviction.


Throughout this duo-recital, Baldwin plays with both sensitivity and intensity despite what seems to me the disadvantageous microphone placement, but possibly because of this it is Browne’s viola that makes a greater impact. Her tone is rich, full, and burnished; she is very obviously one of the greatest living violists. Nuance, color, and a positively sweeping joie de vivre are hallmarks of her playing. I’d love to hear more of her.


There’s an equally fine disc by violist Julia Rebekka Adler and cellist Thomas Ruge (Neos 10805), highly rated by Jerry Dubins in Fanfare 33:1, that includes the same Lutos?awski, Clarke, and Hindemith works on this disc, but for the superb synergy between Browne and Baldwin as well as the outstanding performances of the Beethoven and Piston, this disc is very much worth a listen.


FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

1.
Bukoliki by Witold Lutoslawski
Performer:  Wesley Baldwin (Cello), Sheila Browne (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; Poland 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 7 Minutes 47 Secs. 
Notes: Version: 1962
Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005) 
2.
Pieces (2) for Viola and Cello by Rebecca Clarke
Performer:  Sheila Browne (Viola), Wesley Baldwin (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1916; England 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 7 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005) 
3.
Duet for Viola and Cello in E flat major, WoO 32 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Wesley Baldwin (Cello), Sheila Browne (Viola)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1796-1797; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 14 Minutes 7 Secs. 
Notes: Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005) 
4.
Scherzo for Viola and Cello by Paul Hindemith
Performer:  Wesley Baldwin (Cello), Sheila Browne (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1934; Germany 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 6 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Notes: Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005) 
5.
Dezembrum by Dan Coleman
Performer:  Sheila Browne (Viola), Wesley Baldwin (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 8 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Notes: Version: 2001
Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005)
Composition written: USA (1992).
Composition revised: USA (2001). 
6.
Duo for Cello and Viola/Piano by Walter Piston
Performer:  Sheila Browne (Viola), Wesley Baldwin (Cello)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Venue:  Recital Hall, Louisiana State University 
Length: 13 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Notes: Version: 1953
Recital Hall, Louisiana State University (01/13/2005 - 01/14/2005)
Composition written: USA (1953).
Composition revised: USA (1972). 

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