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Clarke, Enescu, Vieuxtemps: Viola Sonatas / Westphal, Swann

Release Date: 09/25/2001 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9109   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Rebecca ClarkeHenri VieuxtempsGeorge Enescu
Performer:  Barbara WestphalJeffrey Swann
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 56 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Here's another first rate performance of Rebecca Clarke's splendid Viola Sonata (for my comments on this work, and a review of Hartmut Lindemann's own reading for Tacet, type Q2387 in Search Reviews). Violist Barbara Westphal puts together all the right ingredients in all the right quantities--robust sound, free-flowing legato lines, unbridled lyricism, and a technically assured presentation--to make us once again regret the viola's traditional treatment as a second-team player among solo instruments--with a consequent dearth of repertoire and distinguished performers. However, with artists such as Westphal--and Kim Kashkashian, the above-mentioned Lindemann, Yuko Inoue, and Nobuko Imai, among today's more active soloists--we now are Read more blessed with a respectable number of virtuoso players but not much more for them to play than was available 100 years ago. Clarke's sonata, written under a pseudonym for a Berkshire Festival competition in 1919, barely missed first prize--but it left a lasting impression on all who heard it. It's been described both as "impressionistic" (in the stylistic sense) and indebted to Brahms, and those characteristics certainly are evident, particularly in the flowing, big-hearted melodies and delicately shaded coloristic effects. The impressionism is closer to the Ives of "Housatonic at Stockbridge" than to anything of Debussy, but it's there, especially in the more contemplative sections.

In contrast, the other two pieces seem less idiomatic--the Vieuxtemps could just as well be for violin, and indeed much of the slow movement exploits the viola's upper register--or, in the case of Enescu's Concertpiece, not as thematically interesting. But both have their sumptuous, shameless Romantic moments (the opening of both works) and manage to provide the performer with plenty of dramatic opportunities (the closing of both works) and technical challenges (although there's nothing exceptionally dazzling or breathtakingly virtuosic in these pieces). Westphal is totally engrossed in this music, and thereby is utterly convincing in her communicative efforts. Her accompanist, Jeffrey Swann, is an agreeable and sympathetic partner who keeps everything in balance. Overall, this studio recording gives an especially vibrant, realistic account of the two instruments--especially the darkest, lowest tones of Westphal's viola. The opening of the Clarke sonata is quite stunning. However, on the treble end of the spectrum, the viola's otherwise silky-sweet voice turns steely and edgy. Is it the instrument or the engineering? Whatever, for me it made the difference between an 8 and a 10. But don't let that stop you; the Clarke is worth it. [10/26/2001]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

Sonata for Viola/Cello and Piano by Rebecca Clarke
Performer:  Barbara Westphal (Viola), Jeffrey Swann (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1919; England 
Venue:  Schalloran Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 23 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Sonata for Viola and Piano in B flat major, Op. 36 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Barbara Westphal (Viola), Jeffrey Swann (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1863; France 
Venue:  Schalloran Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 22 Minutes 53 Secs. 
Concert Piece for Viola and Piano by George Enescu
Performer:  Barbara Westphal (Viola), Jeffrey Swann (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906; Romania 
Venue:  Schalloran Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany 
Length: 9 Minutes 35 Secs. 

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