BARTOK: 44 Violin Duos – Angela and Jennifer Chun, violins – Harmonia mundi

by | Jan 21, 2010 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BARTOK: 44 Violin Duos – Angela and Jennifer Chun, violins – Harmonia mundi 907501, 52:35 ****1/2:

Bartok’s Duos are ostensibly pedagogical, yet in no way imply any sort of progression in difficulty. Rather they are exquisite miniatures of delicate sensibility though also of formidable interpretative challenges. Bartok, faced with the request of one Erich Doflein (a German violin teacher) to arrange some of the pieces of the monumental Mikrokosmos as a set of progressive pieces for two violins, decided instead to compose afresh, and created this body of Hungarian, Slovakian, Wallachian, Ruthenian, Romanian, Serbian, Arabian, Transylvanian, and Ukrainian songs and dances (notes) that rarely require the performers to leave first position on their instruments!

But no matter—the musicality’s the thing, and in this case things proceed nicely, though the order that Bartok came up with to indicate the increasing difficulty of the works doesn’t differentiate all that much. In fact, performers always rearrange these pieces, and often excise certain numbers (rarely are they performed in toto). The Chun sisters have come up with their own ordering based on their sense of the dramatic progression of the music, and I must say it seems to work as well as any I have heard. The Duos have done well on disc—no less than eleven offerings currently grace the catalog, and I am familiar with only a few, but I daresay that few, if any, surpass this new release from the Chuns. The playing is alert and vigorous, and the works are treated as serious compositions and not mere teaching aids; indeed one could claim a tour of Eastern Europe is present when traversing these duets.

The sound is wonderful, though I don’t see why it would have hurt to include at least one more work on the program as the timing is quite short. Another first-class production from a reliable source.

— Steven Ritter

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