MUSIC OF TRIBUTE, Volume 6 • Ieva Jokubaviciute, Vladimir Valjarevi? (pn1); Marjorie Dix (mez2) • LABOR 7086 (60:50 Text and Translation)
BERG Piano Sonata. 24 Songs, op. 2. SCELSIRead morePassage du poète. ALI-ZADEH Piano Sonata No. 1. FINNEY Variations on a Theme by Alban Berg. GILBOA Reflections on 3 Chords of Alban Berg. APOSTEL 1Variations from Berg’s Opera Lulu
Following the scheme of its predecessors (see Fanfare 25:4, 25:5, 28:5, 32:3), this CD, the latest installment in Labor Records’ Music of Tribute series, interleaves music by Berg and compositions written in his memory. In this case, at least, the result is an evocative sense of aesthetic and temporal dislocation. This stems, in part, from Berg’s ambiguous position as both a progressive modernist and a backward-looking late Romantic, a duality that allows his followers to draw opposite kinds of inspiration from his music. Thus, for instance, the tonally unmoored Reflections by Jacob Gilboa (1920–2007) takes the forward-looking aspects of the second scene of Wozzeck as its starting point; Scelsi’s redolent Passage du poète, in contrast, looks back on early Berg, especially the Sonata, as if through a fog of nostalgia. (Christopher Zimmerman’s notes insist that there are no actual quotes, but I suspect I won’t be the only listener to hear fairly direct references.) But the vertigo has another source as well: Berg’s Violin Concerto was, of course, itself a memorial to Manon Gropius; and by choosing the opening of that work as the source of his eloquent Variations, Ross Lee Finney opens up a kind of mise-en-abyme that looks back all the way to the incestuous world of turn-of-the-century Vienna. In the end, listening to this disc hauntingly dissolves your sense of stability.
The performances are all excellent. Ieva Jokubaviciute, making her recording debut, fuses a solid technique (listen, for example, to the clockwork counterpoint in the last movement of the Ali-Zadeh Sonata) with a luminous touch and a strong lyrical impulse. On the whole, the performances tend to be on the gentle side, more interested in nuances of color and phrasing than in accumulation of sheer weight. Thus, the Berg Sonata is set out with unusually suggestive flexibility that plays up the music’s meditative qualities rather than its emotional heat—it’s not exactly an introverted performance (it’s too open-hearted for that), but it’s never insistent. And while some of the grander moments on the recital are consequently played down, the gain in eloquence more than compensates. Marjorie Dix, blessed with a marvelously rich voice that’s just right for the op. 2 songs, matches Jokubaviciute’s expressivity.
Any flaws? Well, I wouldn’t have ended with Hans Erich Apostel’s rather workaday four-hand transcription of the Lulu Variations—especially since the music itself makes little sense outside its context (ideally the whole opera, but minimally the suite), where its very banality serves, dramatically, to provide a perverse kind of respite. In addition, there are no texts for the songs. Other than that, this well-engineered disc is warmly recommended. More from Jokubaviciute would be welcome.