DUOS FOR VIOLIN AND CELLO • Valeria Nasushkina (vn); Mikael Samsonov (vc) • OEHMS 777 (57:54)
KODÁLY Duo for Violin and Cello. CIRRI Duo in G. HALVORSEN Passacaglia. GLIÈRE 8 Duos
Violinist Valeria Nasushkina and cellist Mikael Samsonov, whose duo, EightRead more Strings, has won several European competitions, have chosen for their program on Oehms a blockbuster (Kodály), a popular encore-like piece (Handel/Halvorsen), a lesser-known duo by Glière, and what they bill as the world premiere of a duo by the 18th-century Giovanni Battisti Cirri. They fold these into the program in such a way that the heaviest part of the meal comes at the beginning. They recorded their program in June 2010 in the Clara Wieck Auditorium, Tonstudio Teije van Geest, Sandhausen, which doesn’t sound like a particularly reverberant venue. Both instrumentalists appear to have been miked close-up.
The first movement of Kodály’s Duo allows both instrumentalists to step forward, with Nasuschkina sounding razor-sharp and aggressive, especially in the upper registers, and Samsonov providing a richly resonant but no less aggressive foil, especially in the lower ones, though their personalities always sound as well matched as complementary. Their vibrant communication, laced with adrenaline, enhances the movement’s dialogue, and their wide dynamic range continually nuances that conversation. Their reading of the second movement explores a darker and perhaps more atmospheric side of their musical collaboration in the outer sections, rising to rhapsodic declamation in the middle one. And they shift gears easily as the exploratory interchanges at the finale’s beginning give way to the movement proper. Those interchanges grow almost impudent before the movement’s brisk conclusion. Still, this isn’t the kind of searing—in fact, almost terrifying—treatment Josef Gingold and Janos Starker gave the duo in 1978 (on Delos 1015).
Cirri’s duo offers them a very different kind of cooperation. At their tempo, the passagework of the opening Allegro con brio sparkles with highlights that hardly distract from the wit and subtlety of their playing; the virtuosity never becomes an end in itself, though it’s obviously plentiful. Paradoxically, despite her brilliance, Nasushkina’s violin sounds even richer in this movement than it did in Kodály’s generally darker duo. They’ve provided their own cadenzas in the surprisingly plaintive second movement as well as in the bustling third; those latter cadenzas sound a bit anachronistic, though they crackle with wry humor. While anyone might wonder whether such tempos as these in the outer movements might have been attempted at the time of the work’s composition, they certainly make for an auspicious 21st-century debut.
Handel/Halvorsen’s pastiche, in a version for violin and viola, provided fodder for Perlman and Zukerman, as well as for Heifetz and Primrose. Nasushkina and Samsonov sound arguably as authoritative as Heifetz and Primrose and patently more sprightly than Perlman and Zukerman, though they introduce possibly tongue-in-cheek timbral effects (as they do into Cirri’s work) to which purists might object. Again, their strikingly wide dynamic range allows them to characterize each of Halvorsen’s variations sharply. Their tempo in the final one approaches the speed of light.
Reinhold Glière’s eight brief duos consist of a Prélude, Gavotte, Lullaby, Canzonetta, Intermezzo, Impromptu, Scherzo, and Etude, none more than three minutes long, and none perhaps challenging to, or even memorable for, the listener, yet severally, in these readings, constitute a box of bonbons at the end of a consistently interesting and ingratiating recital. And, in the end, the arch spikiness of the Gavotte and the Scherzo and the dreamy reflection of the Lullaby and the Canzonetta offer a final opportunity for the duo to demonstrate how effectively they comprehend the variety inherent in unity—in their own ensemble and as well as in the compositions themselves.
Whatever other ensembles listeners or collectors might admire in Kodály’s Duo, this one deserves to be heard for the clean yet robust playing, the general virtuosity, and the closeness of rapport. Most enthusiastically recommended.
HIghly recommendedSeptember 10, 2013By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM)See All My Reviews"Pure delight. Such an enchanting eclectic selection that will cause you ears and heart to soar. A wonderful purchase that you will never regret listening to over and over to again. I might also use the word addictive."Report Abuse