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Franco DONATONI: Argot; Pierre BOULEZ: Anthèmes; Witold LUTASLAWSKI: Partita for violin and piano – Véronique Mathieu (vln.) /Jasmin Arakawa (p.) – Navona Records

“Argot” = Franco DONATONI: Argot; Pierre BOULEZ: Anthèmes; Witold LUTASLAWSKI: Recitativo e Arioso; Subito for violin and piano; Partita for violin and piano – Véronique Mathieu, violin/Jasmin Arakawa, piano – Navona Records NV6105 [Distr. by Naxos] 45:17, (7/14/17) ***:

Very impressive somewhat wild ride violin recital.

Young Canadian violinist Véronique Mathieu is an appreciable talent, as is her pianist (in the Lutaslawski), Jasmin Arakawa. Artistically and technically this is a very demanding and impressive program of modern violin music.

The title work, Argot, by Franco Donatoni, is, interestingly, the most ‘traditional’ sounding work here. Donatoni is not nearly as well known as some of Italy’s other mid-century and post-war experimentalists; such as Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono and the somewhat later Luigi Dallapiccola. Yet, his music is bold and expressive. The two pieces that comprise Argot are partly a technical flourish and partly an almost ethnic sounding expression with bits of gypsy and folk-inspired ornamentation throughout. A lot of Donatoni’s orchestral music is very challenging but well worth exploring, incidentally.

Boulez’ Anthèmes has gotten a bit of play and some other recorded performances these past twenty years. Written for Yehudi Menuhin in 1992, Athèmes uses a variety of extended techniques and plenty of virtuosic melisma over its seven sections. The language is very ‘middle Boulez’ with angular melodic snippets and very complex rhythms. It is an abstract but impressive work that showcases the soloist very nicely. Boulez actually expanded this work into a version with solo violin and electronics, Anthèmes 2, in 1997.

Most listeners will probably appreciate the three selections by the great Polish composer, Witold Lutaslawski. Recitativo e Arioso was written in 1951 and represents a bit of early Lutaslawski with clear melody and a lyrical introduction. The Subito for violin and piano was composed in 1992 and was actually one of the composer’s last works. There is a drama and clear melodic pulse to follow in both of these very short but engaging works.

The big work in this collection, and the one most violinists probably already know, is Lutaskawski’s Partita for violin and piano. This five movements are comprised of three “main” sections, like Sonata form: Allegro giusto, Largo and Presto. These are joined by two very short, almost cadenza-like, small linking section in between the first and third and the third and fifth. The structures and, to a lesser extent, the sounds of this work are an allusion to earlier musical forms; such as the typical mid-nineteenth century Sonata. This work is not just the most ‘substantial’ work on this modern recital album but the work that is the most often included in the violin standard contemporary repertory and for good reason.

This is in many ways a ‘niche’ album which will appeal most directly to violinists who want to become more aware of the modern repertoire. It will – and should – appeal to anyone who appreciates outstanding violin playing and who already appreciate good quality twentieth-century music a bit off the “beaten path.”

—Daniel Coombs

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