Notes and Editorial Reviews
12 Etudes. Duos:
Book 1/1, 2; Book 2/2
Rudolf Koeckert (vn)
NAXOS 8.572604 (68: 16)
For many decades, Pierre Rode may have been known to non-violinists primarily as the dedicatee and first performer of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 10th Violin Sonata and to violinists as the composer of 24 famous caprices that summarize the violin technique of his time. Nicolas Koeckert
has now explored Rode’s didactic literature further, issuing the first recording of his 12 etudes, which appeared posthumously in 1830. Rodolphe Kreutzer also issued a less frequently studied second set of 18 caprices; just as Kreutzer’s second set explores the upper positions and expands the technique he solidified in the first, Rode’s also seems to stretch what he developed in the celebrated 24 to include a virtuosic brilliance not associated with that earlier set. From the unremitting double-stops of the First Etude through the cascading runs of the Second and the rapid-fire triplets of the Third, Koeckert demonstrates a panache that listeners may associate with Ruggiero Ricci’s performances of Niccolò Paganini’s caprices, and the engineers have captured him close enough to transmit the full effect of his command without picking up extraneous noise, such as heavy breathing, except perhaps on a very rare occasion. The Fourth Etude features chromatic runs, while the Fifth, described as a
, snakes its way through thickets of sinuous double-stops, somewhat reminiscent of Ludwig Spohr’s cadenza to his Eighth Concerto, “Gesangsszene.” The sharply articulated Sixth Etude might almost be taken as a character piece rather than as a technical exercise (each of the etudes, in fact, presents its difficulties in the guise of a digestible musical bonbon). The Seventh Etude opens, as do many didactic pieces from the period, with a slow introduction, and it’s to Koeckert’s credit that he makes an expressive musical statement in this miniature before launching into the second, more patterned—and, for F Major, rather darkly hued—section. He plays the dotted rhythms of the Eighth with a bold confidence that should convince listeners of their musical import, and he makes sense of the Ninth’s study-like figuration. The 10th Etude again includes a slow introduction, this time an exercise in cantabile rather than in double-stops; it gives way to a section in triplets, among which Koeckert effectively differentiates one group buzzing in legato and another crisply articulated. After an 11th Etude—a sort of free-flowing cadenza (think of
in Henri Wieniawski’s
)—Koeckert leads without pause into the final caprice, rich in musical and dramatic gestures mediated by a range of prepossessing technical ones.
Rode’s works include two books of duets, three in each, and Nicolas Koeckert and his father, Rudolf, present the first and second from the First Book and the second duo from the Second. As do Giovanni Battista Viotti’s duets, Rode’s make musical rather than technical—or even exclusively violinistic—points, nearly falling, in fact, into the category of salon music. Nicolas and Rudolf demonstrate in these the close collaboration that might be expected from so closely attuned a duo. They play the moderately paced opening movements of the duets from the First Book genially (sometimes recalling thematic material from Viotti’s duets) and grow appropriately animated—as well as agitated during the occasionally passing storms—in the concluding rondos (the Second Duo’s main subject, in particular, sparkles with shifting highlights in their reading). The Second Duo from the Second Book, somewhat longer, contains three movement-like sections, concluding with a theme and variations. Many listeners may find its first movement more ambitious than those of the First Book, even aspiring to rise from the drawing room to the stage. The Koeckerts, alternating figuration and cantabile, explore its greater range sympathetically, enter into the more brooding, almost transitional, slow section that begins the second movement with a sense of foreboding, and plunge into the pert theme of the variations that bring such a genial variety.
Many violinists may be surprised to find in the 12 etudes a worthy counterpart of the better-known 24 and eagerly seek them out. But lovers of the violin literature in general, as well as non-violinists, should enjoy them as well, and the duos provide a half-hour of pleasant though undemanding musical entertainment. Urgently recommended to the former types of listeners and warmly recommended to everyone else.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Pierre Rode's Etudes are generally considered teaching pieces, but they are beautifully crafted little gems, particularly worthwhile if you enjoy the solo violin but don't have the patience for some of the more heavy-duty repertoire pieces (think: Bach). Nicolas Koeckert tosses them off with aplomb. His double-stops are nicely in tune, most evident perhaps in the Duetto cantabile of No. 5, and he's more than capable of driving the ensuing presto (No. 6) with the necessary dash and point. Occasionally, as in No. 2, his legato runs threaten to turn into quasi-glissandos, but in the multi-sectional No. 11 he gives each bit its own personality while holding the entire four-minute piece together quite effectively. Nicolas' father Rudolf joins him in the duos, slighter works that are heavy on charm, albeit light on substance. Each has two movements, the most imposing being the lengthy variation finale of Book 2, No. 2. Fine sonics make this a disc that violin students and casual listeners alike should enjoy, though the repertoire admittedly belongs squarely in the "specialist" category.
--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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