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Glass Heart / Maria Bachmann, Jon Klibonoff

Glass / Schubert / Ravel / Bachmann / Klibonoff
Release Date: 02/08/2011 
Label:  Orange Mountain Music   Catalog #: 7006   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Philip GlassCharles GounodFranz SchubertMaurice Ravel
Performer:  Maria BachmannJon Klibonoff
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GLASS HEART Maria Bachmann (vn); Jon Klibonoff (pn) ORANGE MOUNTAIN 7006 (65: 33)

GLASS Violin Sonata No. 1. BACH-GOUNOD Ave Maria. SCHUBERT Violin Sonata in A, “Duo.” RAVEL Violin Sonata, op. post.

Read more /> Violinist Maria Bachmann and pianist Jon Klibonoff have assembled a collection of works to surround their premiere performance of Philip Glass’s First Violin Sonata, which leads off their program. Bachmann explains in Lucy Miller Murray’s notes that she chose the other works for various connections they bear to Glass’s sonata. Her remarks and choices seem perceptive and convincing.

Glass’s sonata, in three movements labeled simply “Movement I,” “Movement II,” and “Movement III,” seems to be constructed from the same characteristic, recognizable repetition of melodic and rhythmic cells for which his work has become known. After a sort of gypsy-like introduction, the first movement, if not so highly patterned as the composer’s violin solo from Einstein on the Beach , nevertheless builds intensity through successive ostinati. The slow movement, the longest of the three, though not by much, allows the violinist to deploy expressive devices native to the instrument, such as expressive shifts (Bachmann also makes discreet use of these in the first movement as well). Partly for that reason, and partly on account of the lush harmonies that underlie the recurring figures, especially in the second movement—sometimes there the harmonic patterns span long sections lending the movement a sense of luxurious, almost decadent, richness—the music of the first two movements sounds both violinistic and hauntingly romantic. The third movement begins with four-note patterns recalling such patterns in Einstein on the Beach . But the movement heats up quickly, and frequent double-stops and octaves enhance the violinistic impression created by the other movements (Bachmann and Klibonoff worked with Glass, presumably offering advice, during the sonata’s gestation). As throughout, the piano shares figuration with the violin; Klibonoff serves as an equal partner throughout. Bachmann generally draws a silvery tone from her 1782 Nicolo Gagliano violin, but with the increase in intensity toward the end of the third movement, she presses it almost to the point of hoarseness.

Charles Gounod’s meditation on Bach’s Prelude in C Major, a long-breathed melody supported by a repeated motive, seems like an obvious choice to illustrate one facet of Glass’s compositional technique. Bachmann and Klibonoff play it chastely. In the booklet notes, Bachmann alludes to the melancholy that runs through the first movements of both sonatas, Glass’s and Schubert’s (in A Major). In that first movement, Klibonoff varies his articulation kaleidoscopically; Bachmann correspondingly displays a peacock-like variety of timbres. But their collaboration also incorporates liberal subtle rhythmic nuances that render the movement both idiomatic and consistently interesting. Their Scherzo, charged with electricity, sounds more dynamic than genial. Murray observes in the notes that Schubert had mimicked Beethoven in the expansion of the sonata to four movements and in writing the additional movement as a Scherzo rather than as a minuet. Bachmann and Klibonoff certainly play the movement as a Scherzo, although they’re appropriately lyrical in the trio. They infuse the Andantino with the same melancholy that marked their reading of the first movement, but their finale is as boldly steely, sharply etched, and commanding in its main sections as suggestively lyrical in the episodes (its repeated rhythms also foreshadow similar insistence in Glass’s sonata and work in general). Isabelle Faust played the sonata on a program of Schubert’s works for violin and piano with Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi 901870, Fanfare 30:4, which I recommended for its “unflinching revelations of a Schubert as a bull in the china shop of a genial Viennese soirée.” From their genial reading of the first movement (although timings don’t tell the whole story, they might have something to contribute here, with Faust at 8: 36 and Bachmann at 9:40), it’s clear that Bachmann and Klibonoff might be more welcome guests—and they take more time to tell their story in all the other movements, as well.

Ravel’s posthumous sonata reflects, according to Bachmann, a tendency Glass shares with that composer to pare expression to the bare essentials. However far-fetched this connection might seem on the page, the duo’s performance makes it clear in practice. Beside this stark but allusive sonata, Ravel’s later one sounds almost chatty by comparison, and some may question whether Glass’s work conjures as much expressivity from such spare materials. In some ways, Bachmann and Klibonoff make a stronger case for this work than for any other on the program, with Bachmann exploring in it virtually every tonal resource of her instrument. Those who prefer Ravel’s later sonata might want to give this one another hearing in Bachmann’s and Klibonoff’s version. In reviewing Leonidas Kavakos and Péter Nagy’s performance on ECM New Series 1824 B0001485-02 in Fanfare 27:4, for example, I suggested that “Kavakos and Nagy refrain from desiccating the sonata either emotionally or tonally,” but while Kavakos plays with a wide expressive and dynamic range, Bachmann seems to create a more haunting atmosphere.

Strongly recommended for recorded sound that transmits the subtlety and dynamic range of the performances, for repertoire astutely chosen to illuminate the program’s central work, and for insightful and convincing readings of Schubert’s and Ravel’s sonatas.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Sonata for violin & piano No. 1 by Philip Glass
Performer:  Maria Bachmann (Violin), Jon Klibonoff (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Venue:  New York State University Performing Art 
Length: 7 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Ave Maria by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Maria Bachmann (Violin), Jon Klibonoff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1859; France 
Venue:  New York State University Performing Art 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, D 574/Op. 162 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Maria Bachmann (Violin), Jon Klibonoff (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1817; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  New York State University Performing Art 
Length: 23 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Sonata Posthume for Violin and Piano by Maurice Ravel
Performer:  Jon Klibonoff (Piano), Maria Bachmann (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1897; France 
Venue:  New York State University Performing Art 
Length: 15 Minutes 15 Secs. 

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