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Four Strings Around the World / Muresanu

Release Date: 04/27/2018 
Label:  Sono Luminus   Catalog #: 92221  
Composer:  George EnescuDave FlynnNiccolò PaganiniFritz Kreisler,   ... 
Performer:  Irina Muresanu
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Strings Attached

Four Strings Around the World is a quite stunning solo CD from the Romanian-born violinist Irina Muresanu that features diverse musical styles from across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and both North and South America (Sono Luminus DSL-92221 sonoluminus.com). Muresanu introduced her Four Strings Around the World project in 2013 after her difficulty in learning Mark O’Connor’s Cricket Dance led her to explore worldwide non-traditional violin styles.

Enescu’s Airs in Romanian Folk Style opens the disc, with works by Ireland’s Dave Flynn, Iran’s Reza Vali, India’s Shirish Korde and China’s Bright Sheng surrounding Paganini’s 24th Caprice, Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo Op.6 and a strongly melodic
Read more reading of the Bach D Minor Chaconne. Then it’s Piazzolla’s Tango Étude No.3 and a work by Chickasaw Nation composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate before the short Cricket Dance that apparently gave Muresanu so much trouble.

Not that you would know it – complete with foot stomps, it’s a simply dazzling end to one of the best solo CDs I’ve heard.

- Terry Robbins, The Whole Note, June/July/August2018 edition

MusicWeb International

“The programme divides in two: Western and Eastern Europe, which ranges from Bach to the contemporary David Flynn via Enescu, Paganini and Kreisler, and Music from the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America; quite a lot to include here all round...

“Muresanu has selected wisely when it comes to her fellow countryman, Enescu, whose Airs in Romanian Folk Style, though written in 1926, was not to be published until 2006. There aren’t many recordings around. The four movements offer plenty of opportunities for characteristic rubato-style performance and for vital dance patterns. The taut melancholia of the third piece is followed by the giocoso vibrancy of the concluding Allegro. This galvanizing reading shows its charms in fine fashion...

“For the second part of her journey she visits Iran via Reza Vali’s Calligraphy No.5. This draws on traditional Persian modes, employing the Dastg?h. This is something of which Behzad Abdi is an outstanding exponent and, like Abdi, Vali aims at a concordance between Persian and Western techniques: Bartók is a probable starting point. Representing India, Shirish Korde’s Vák, for violin and electronic drone invariably owes its inspiration to Ragas. The drone effect allows Muresanu to negotiate the work’s three unbroken sections with considerable virtuosity. Bright Sheng’s international reputation is now of long standing and The Stream Flows, of which we hear only the second part (shame) evokes the sound of the erhu in this dance-patterned and pizzicato-flecked piece. Piazzolla’s Tango Etude No.3 possesses all its resonant and driving capital in this solo reading...”

- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International, May 2018

Sono Luminus Label Does It Again...

CD featuring violinist Irina Muresanu as eclectic as it gets

In the space of less than two years, the recording company Sono Luminus (distributed by Naxos) has proven to be the go-to label if you’re looking to break out of a listening rut. One of their latest releases features [Irina Muresanu] in repertoire ranging from pillars such as the Chaconne of Bach’s Partita in D Minor to world premieres from India and the Chickasaw Nation.

The purveyor of this stimulating potpourri is Romanian violinist Irina Muresanu (pictured above on the CD cover). She relates that when working on Mark O’Connor’s “Cricket Dance,” the time it was taking to learn the short work made her realize that the technique required generally lay outside the demands of the classical repertoire. What else, she wondered, is out there that might fall into this category? The result of her search culminated in the CD “Four Strings Around the World.”

The disc is divided into two parts, “Music from Western and Eastern Europe” and “Music from the Middle East and Asia, South and North America.” Muresanu begins the journey in her native Romania, with “Airs in Romanian Folk Style,” an engaging and brief four movements from George Enescu. We then head to Ireland with the celebratory “Tar Eisan Caoineadh” of David Flynn. The title translates “After the Keening,” the mournful portion of an Irish wake. The life- affirming section follows, and Flynn paid homage to a quartet of great Irish fiddlers by using a technique each was known for as the basis for a new section in the eight minute work. This is a good place to mention that one’s enjoyment of the more obscure works is greatly enhanced by the detailed and generous program booklet.

Muresanu closes the European portion of the selections with some obvious selections: the “Caprice No. 24” of Paganini and the aforementioned “Chaconne” by Bach sandwich Fritz Kreisler’s “Recitativo and Scherzo.” While one would have to split hairs to criticize Muresanu’s traversals of these iconic works, I did feel after hearing the disc twice that I was drawn back much more strongly by the off the beaten path pieces.

Thus the second half of the disc grabs one’s attention at once with “Calligraphy No. 5” of Reza Vali. The derivation of the material is rooted in traditional Persian music, in this case based on a scale that includes a quarter-tone. Next we are treated to a world premiere recording of “Vak” for violin and electronic drone by Shirish Korde. Its three brief movments are based on a Raga that uncharacteristically omits the fifth degree of the scale. Designated as Raga Lilit, it is usually associated with daybreak (and by the way, the drone is the only accompaniment of Muresanu on the CD). The dreamy improvisatory sound of the opening section leads to a middle movement of meterless, but pulsed, music, and the finale grows in unabated speed and excitement.

Bright Sheng’s “The Stream Flows” (Part II only) brings us to China, before we take a giant leap to South America, courtesy of “Tango Etude No. 3” of Piazzolla. Lest one fears that the territory may become too familiar, Murasenu presents a work commissioned for this project, “Oshta” (“Four”) by Jerod Impichchaachaaha Tate. The composer has written, “Oshta is the Chickasaw word for the number ‘four’...The work is closely based upon a Choctaw church hymn that was composed in the 1800s.” In addition to more fascinating detail from the composer in the notes, Muresanu adds “At the premiere of the piece, I performed Oshta in the dark, in order to allow the listeners to focus only on its haunting sounds.”

The disc closes with O’Connor’s “The Cricket Dance” the very short—and very daunting—work that triggered the whole project. Muresanu’s bio reveals that she is anything but unknown; indeed she enjoys a major reputation in many cities in the U.S. and abroad. But her new CD should enhance her reputation and win many new fans...and some of us will keep a close eye on what the Sono Luminus label releases next.

- Greg Gettmansberger, WhatGregSays blog, May 2018

Irina Muresanu an Extraordinary Violinist

This post to bring to the attention of our readers an extraordinary violinist, Irina Muresanu.

Romanian by birth, she now lives in Maryland and teaches at the University of Maryland. Sono Luminus recently released the album Four Strings Around the World (DSL 92221) and forwarded to us a copy for review on our blog.

When you have a chance, ...find a hard copy of this beautifully engineered CD. I promise you will be stunned by not only the virtuosic playing of Irina Muresanu’s playing but also by her deep commitment to exploring music for her instrument from musical cultures as diverse as Indian, Persian, Native American, Irish, Chinese and Argentine ones. Oh, and read her liner notes. This is a musical scholar who gives voice to her ideas both in words and in her playing.

In her album she mixes samples of an off-beat repertory with sundry pieces by Kreisler, Paganini, and JS Bach. The Caprice No. 24 of Niccolo Paganini, Fritz Kreisler’s Recitative and Scherzo, Op. 6 and JS Bach’s Chaconne from the D minor Partita are de rigueur test pieces for the best of violinists and Irina Muresanu quickly puts any doubts to rest: this is a superb artist in full command of her instrument. She plays the Italian master’s Caprice with Romantic bel canto singing tone. The Kreisler is all pure Viennese Schlagmusik here given a lively reading. The Bach Chaconne – a notoriously tricky musical mine-field is played by Muresanu with classical sobriety.

None of the rest of the music in this album is strictly and traditionally classic, but grown from strong folk roots. Such is the case with Georges Enescu’s decidedly gypsy-flavored Airs in Romanian Style, which Muresanu plays with the dash and abandon of a village fiddler and with daunting technique.

In the Gaelic Tar éis an Caoineadh the composer and Ms. Muresanu employ all sorts of technically dazzling effects typical of Irish fiddle music. In Reza Vali’s Calligraphy No. 5 the inspiration for the composer is born out of ancient music for the Arab rebab and the Persian kemancheh, both ancestors to the western violin. In both these compositions Muresanu is nothing short of dazzling, as her violin imitates the bending of the pitch typical of much Iranian music with its modal, non- western sound.

In Shirih Korde’s three-part Vak for violin and electronic drone Muresanu’s playing is hauntingly redolent of the sound of Indian string instruments. In Bright Sheng’s lovely The Stream Flows: II, Mureanu adopts a percussive mode of playing that alternates with a plangent sound reminiscent of a Chinese erhu.

The music of Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Etude No. 3 is cool at times, red hot at others, recalling the sound of fiddles played in dimly-lit, smoke-filled dives near the docks of the River Plate. Muresanu cuts loose on this track fearlessly throwing all caution to the winds.

Entering the musically unknown territory of Native American composer Jerod Impichchaachaha’Tate, of the Chickasaw Nation, Irina Muresanu plays Oshta with intensity and respect for the spirituality inherent in this strangely haunting composition.

Mark O’Connor’s The Cricket Dance is Appalachian to the core and foot-tappin’ and fiddlin’ her way into a grand finale, Irina Muresanu convinces us there’s simply nothing in this world she cannot play.

- Rafael de Acha, http://www.rafaelmusicnotesa.com April 2018
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Works on This Recording

Airs in Romanian Folk Style by George Enescu
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Tar Éis an Caoineadh' by Dave Flynn
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Caprices (24) for Violin solo, Op. 1: no 24 in A minor by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1805; Italy 
Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice for Violin solo, Op. 6 by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; Austria 
Partita for Violin solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 5th movement, Chaconne by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Calligraphy no 5 "Gozaar" by Reza Vali
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003; USA 
Vák by Shirish Korde
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
The Stream Flows, for Solo Violin: Movement Two by Bright Sheng
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Tango-Étude No. 3 by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Argentina 
Oshta (Four) by Jerod Tate
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: United States 
The Cricket Dance by Mark O'Connor
Performer:  Irina Muresanu (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: United States 

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