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Voices Of Time / Matitiahu Braun

Prokofiev / Bach / Varga / Braun
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1336   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Heinrich Ignaz BiberSergei ProkofievRuben VargaStella Sung,   ... 
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



VOICES OF TIME Matitiahu Braun (vn 1 , va 2 ) MSR 1336 (2 CDs: 122:09)


BIBER Passacaglia. 1 BACH Cello Suites (arr. viola): No. 1 in G; No. 2 in d. 2 Solo Violin Read more Partita No. 2. 1 PROKOFIEV Solo Violin Sonata. 1 VARGA Prelude and 4 Caprices. 1 SUNG Voices of Time 2


Matitiahu Braun has compiled a program of monumental works for violin and for cello (two of Bach’s suites, played on viola), and new ones for violin (Varga) and viola (Sung). He performs these on a 1739 Camillo Camilli violin and a 1998 Guy Rabut viola. Biber’s passacaglia, which brings the composer’s “Rosary” Sonatas to a conclusion, consists of variations on a descending four-note pattern that’s been traced to a hymn in honor of the Guardian Angel. While period instrumentalists like Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi 907 321.22, Fanfare 28:6) have revealed novel timbral aspects of the work, Braun’s crisp articulation and rhythmic verve demonstrate that there’s still a great deal to be uncovered by modern instrumentalists as well. Recorded in 2007 (when the violinist had only recently turned 60), the performance sounds immediate and vibrant, an impression enhanced by the close miking and somewhat reverberant acoustic ambiance. Occasionally his right arm betrays a slight stiffness in bow crossings that may affect his tone production in more settled moments as well, and his left hand fails to alight in the most auspicious spot, producing momentary—and infrequent—bobbles in intonation. Bach’s First Cello Suite sounds romantic in Braun’s performance, personalized by rhythmic nuances and occasionally by noisy (though dramatic) shifting from position to position, although the Prelude builds to an imposing conclusion. Braun, in that movement and the following Allemande, makes rhetorical use of pauses, a practice he largely eschews in the quicker—and somewhat more abstract—Courante. The Sarabande allows him to draw upon the most profound of his musical instincts; he imparts to the Menuetts I and II a tantalizingly vital snap—as he does to the concluding Gigue. Braun’s tone on the viola sounds almost cello-like in its strength and resonance, so that those accustomed to listen to these works in the original cello version should find themselves in familiar timbral territory.


David Oistrakh refused to play Prokofiev’s Solo Violin Sonata, presumably because it had been written for performances by an ensemble of violins. But Joseph Szigeti did take it up (as he also did Prokofiev’s First Concerto, one of Oistrakh’s specialties). Braun relates in the notes having heard Ruggiero Ricci play it live, but his own performance, taken at tempos (and with an angular manner) more reminiscent of Szigeti’s, recalls Oistrakh’s sonorous solidity more vividly than it does Ricci’s machismo —at least in the first movement. If there’s little of Szigeti’s stridency, there’s also little of Oistrakh’s warmth. In the second movement, he also lacks Szigeti’s sense of playfulness in the quicker variations. The slashing finale again reveals some stiffness, and the final chords sound brittle.


Ruben Varga’s Prelude and Four Caprices, according to Braun’s notes, have an autobiographical basis, although they may not be straightforwardly narrative. They begin with the composer’s childhood in Tel Aviv and pass through his life in Hungary during World War II. In addition, however, they’re idiomatic and brilliant works for the violin, with the First and Second (both vivace ) based on patterns as persistent as—if more complex than—those in Locatelli’s caprices for his concertos, op. 3, and relieved by technically dazzling passages reminiscent of Paganini’s. The Third combines expressive passages in octaves and tremolos, both reminiscent of darker passages in Paganini’s caprices. The Fourth consists largely of passages in leaping string crossings, relieved by swirling double-stops. Braun turns in a performance of these caprices that makes them seem as important in their musical content as Ysaÿe’s solo sonatas and as brilliant in their technical display as works by Paganini, Ernst, or Wieniawski.


Braun explains in the notes that the sequence of the second part of the program differs from the chronological one in the first part because he wanted to end with the Chaconne. The opening work, Bach’s Second Cello Suite, in D Minor, sounds richly expressive in the Prelude, though occasional roughness crops up in chords. Braun is authoritative in the strutting Allemande, with strong articulation that at times threatens to carry the aggressive across the line into the mannered. He plays the Courante (and, somewhat similarly, the Sarabande) with an elusive rhythmic slipperiness, although in the Menuetts I and II—and, to some extent, in the Gigue—the harsher accentuation from the Allemande returns.


Stella Sung’s somber and haunting Voices of Time , a work of some nine and a half minutes, reflects, according to the notes, her feeling for the victims of Auschwitz. Ranging far beyond the tonal in its harmonic layout, it offers in this performance a sort of bleak meditation, and Braun captures its intensity and ferocity so effectively that the beginning of Bach’s Second Partita comes almost as a benediction. But Braun’s isn’t a performance that allows the dances to flow easily: He drives the Allemanda forward, not at a fast tempo but forcefully nevertheless. He interrupts the Corrente’s flow, however, with brief pauses that often have the effect of dividing what might have been longer lines into a series of shorter segments. The Sarabanda and Giga both move somewhat more slowly than many might wish, and the Chaconne ends the program at a whopping 16:54 (consider that many modern performances challenge Heifetz’s tempos in the 12-minute range—of course, in speed alone). So the question arises of what it takes Braun almost 17 minutes to do that others haven’t done equally well at brisker tempos; the performance, with its by now familiar heavy accentuation adding to its weight and some questionable intonation and unsteady tone production, fails to supply ready answers.


Matitiahu Braun’s recital offers two new works of considerable interest and creditable performances of some of the most important works in the standard repertoire of the violin and the viola. Recommended more strongly to those in search of convincing presentations of the new than to those seeking archetypal performances of the well established.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Passacaglia (Mystery Sonata), for violin solo in G minor, C. 105 by Heinrich Ignaz Biber
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1676; Austria 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
2.
Sonata for Violin solo in D major, Op. 115 by Sergei Prokofiev
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1947; USSR 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 13 Minutes 29 Secs. 
3.
Prelude & 4 Caprices, for violin by Ruben Varga
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Violin)
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 14 Minutes 8 Secs. 
4.
Voices of Time, for viola by Stella Sung
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Viola)
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 9 Minutes 32 Secs. 
5.
Suite for Cello solo no 1 in G major, BWV 1007 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Viola)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 14 Minutes 9 Secs. 
6.
Suite for Cello solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1008 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Viola)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 18 Minutes 13 Secs. 
7.
Partita for Violin solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Matitiahu Braun (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Date of Recording: 2007 
Venue:  Winter Park, Florida 
Length: 33 Minutes 8 Secs. 

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