Bucolics for Viola and Violoncello; CLARKE: Lullaby and Grotesque for
Viola and Violoncello; VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Romance for Viola and Piano;
PISTON: Duo for Viola and Cello; HARRIS: Soliloquy and Dance for Viola
and Piano – Paul Cortese, viola/ Herwig Coryn, cello/ Artanios
Roc, piano – Crystal Records CD 833 54:18 ****:
Sporting a richly toned, anonymous 18th century French viola, Paul
Cortese plies his felicitous way through six contemporary composers‚
contributions to the repertory for this rewarding alto instrument.
Formerly principal viola with the Teatro alla Scala and the Gothenburg
Symphony, Cortese decided to join Flemish cellist Herwig Coryn and
Sardinian pianist Artanios Roc for a program which would display the
instrument’s versatility, lyricism, and capacity for bravura effects.
The result is a kaleidoscopic array of pieces in surprisingly
accessible style, either tonal or modally approachable and
communicative, but no less virtuosic for their avoidance of merely
academic impulses. Recording engineer Miguel Roger has done a fine
balancing job in keeping the various duos in focus with losing the
sense of collaboration.
Several of the selections, like the Piston and Harris pieces, were
conceived with viola players in mind, like Joseph de Pasquale, Sven
Reher, and William Primrose. Lutoslawski’s Bucolics was originally a
four-hand piano opus, arranged in 1962 for viola and cello for Gregor
Piatagorsky and Heifetz, in the manner of the Bartok duos for violins.
A happy addition is British violist Rebecca Clarke’s Lullaby and
Grotesque, a piece whose latter movement hardly fits that epithet at
all — being haunting, busy, and rustically intricate at once. The
Vaughan Williams Romance is perhaps the most overtly conservative
piece, a romantic gesture conceived for Lionel Tertis. The Piston work
is alternately elegiac, passionate, and breezy. Otto Luening, whose
works do not pass my scrutiny too often, has a ten-minute suite of a
character not so far from his musical idol Ives, in his folksy,
European persona. While playing the entire disc at one sitting may
invite a shade of monochrome, the savoring of each work independently
reaps repeated musical benefits.