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Manto And Madrigal / Thomas Zehetmair, Ruth Killius

Release Date: 05/17/2011 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 001557302   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Rainer kiliusGiacinto ScelsiHeinz HolligerBéla Bartók,   ... 
Performer:  Thomas ZehetmairRuth Killius
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MANTO AND MADRIGALS Thomas Zehetmair (vn); Ruth Killius (va) ECM B0015573-02 (49:22)

KILLIUS Ó min flaskan frida. SCELSI Manto. HOLLIGER 3 Skizzen. BARTÓK Duo. SKALKOTTAS Duo. MAXWELL Read more DAVIES Midhouse Air. MARTINU 3 Madrigals. NIED Zugabe

This is an excellent program, expertly rendered. Thomas Zehetmair and Ruth Killius are a married duo, and play with seamless ensemble. The pieces are wonderfully diverse. Rainer Killius’s (b.1969) Ó min flaskan frida is a folk-song arrangement with the sort of hauntingly plain harmonies and chant-like melodies we have come to associate with Baltic and Eastern European post-Pärtian new music (though the composer lives in Berlin, from what I can glean from his all-German website). Giacinto Scelsi’s Manto (1957) is what we would expect by now, all glisses and microtonal inflections, until its concluding movement, where the player sings along. The vocal part is dark and demanding, and Killius imbues it with a dark, keening quality. Heinz Holliger (b.1939) is of course noted as one of the greatest living oboists, but over the decades he has developed a career as composer and conductor that probably eclipses even his soloist’s status. His Drei Skizzen (Three Sketches, 2006) is rich in breathy detail, its first movement limned with bow noise and harmonics, very much like some sort of flickering phosphorescence. The final piece of the set also requires both players to sing, but in this case the effect is that of a ghostly serenity, pale and floating away from life.

Béla Bartók’s Duo is an early work (1902). Indeed, one could mistake it for a work by a contemporary or student of Mozart. Nikos Skalkottas (1904–49) is one of the most important Greek composers of the 20th century, having studied with Schoenberg in Berlin before returning to Athens, where he died young and neglected. And yet his music keeps cropping up. His 1938 Duo strikes me as a very clear and focused work, less complexly clotted than some I have heard. Peter Maxwell Davies’ 1996 Midhouse Air is another of his Orkney island pieces, evoking a barren northern landscape with its plaintive simplicity. Indeed, it sounds more like Bartók than Bartók, until it cuts loose near the end into a giddy reel. Bohuslav Martin? is a composer for whom I still don’t know as much of his output as I should, and yet I can also say I am consistently impressed and delighted by almost every piece of his I encounter. His 1947 Three Madrigals are exuberant, nostalgic, and dense with musical ideas in their 13 minutes. While neoclassical in style, they are never over-restrained; there’s a deep lyrical romanticism here as well (indeed, I hear a good deal of Dvo?ák in the first). Finally, Johannes Nied’s (b.1959) Zugabe (2004) is a three-minute romp based largely on leaping octaves bouncing between the two instruments, with adjacent minor-second dissonances casting sparks off their edges.

The two performers play with total control, commitment, and intelligence. What would seem to be a rather esoteric niche of repertoire becomes here a satisfying portrait of music from the last century to our current one.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Ó min flaskan friđa by Rainer kilius
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Manto I, II, III, for viola & female voice by Giacinto Scelsi
Performer:  Ruth Killius (Viola/Voice)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1967 
Drei Skizzen by Heinz Holliger
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Written: 2006 
Duets (44) for 2 Violins, Sz 98: Excerpt(s) by Béla Bartók
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; Budapest, Hungary 
Duo for Violin and Viola, A/K 44 by Nikos Skalkottas
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946-1947; Greece 
Midhouse Air by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1996 
Zugabe by Johannes Nied
Performer:  Thomas Zehetmair (Violin), Ruth Killius (Viola)
Written: 2004 

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