Music by Honegger, Martinů, Bach, Pintscher, Ravel, by Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin, and Heinrich Schiff, cello (released on September 26, 2006)
As is usually the case, Bach shames those who followed and imitated him, including the strange, atmospheric Study I for "Treatise on the Veil", by Matthias Pintscher (composed in 2004 for this duo), which is sandwiched by the two Bach canons. At 11:26, the piece outlasts the interest of its thematic ideas. If the heart of the recording is a little hollow, the two works that bookend it are both rich. Arthur Honegger's sixth sonatine in E minor (1932) and Maurice Ravel's sonata for violin and cello (1922) are cut from similar cloth, informed by the rationalistic love of counterpoint. This contrapuntal severity in the era between the world wars is the musical counterpart of the intellectual rappel à l'ordre advocated by artists like Piet Mondrian, all grids and solid colors. The Ravel sonata, the only piece also played by the Capuçons on their Shriver Hall concert, looks forward to minimalism, too, in its reduction to motivic principles. A worthy disc.
ECM New Series 1912
Misterioso (music by Silvestrov, Pärt, Ustvolskaya), Alexei Lubimov, Alexander Trostiansky, Kyrill Rybakov (released on September 26, 2006)
Post Scriptum goes well with another modernist fugitive to the land of tonal beauty, Arvo Pärt, in his Spiegel im Spiegel, here in the 2003 arrangement for clarinet and piano. It's a dreamy, trance-like spiral, a waltz remembered through a prism that slows down time. The remaining pair of works come from a notorious student of Shostakovich, Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006), whose death was recently noted by Alex Ross. The Trio for clarinet, violin, and piano from 1949 is a sphinxian piece, monstrously understated at times and a near-satire of musical intellectualism in its faux-contrapuntal third movement. I was less immediately charmed by the Sonata for violin and piano (1952), which the fine liner notes by Jürg Stenzl (translated by J. Bradford Robinson) calls an "endgame of two prisoners shut in a wasteland that conditions their very existence." That may not sound like much of an endorsement for listening, but the monotonous main theme of this work, an anxiety-ridden perfect fourth idée fixe ticking back and forth like a pitiless clock, captures something sinister, perhaps the tension of walking on the razor's edge of compositional creativity in the Soviet era.
All three performers -- pianist Alexei Lubimov, violinist Alexander Trostiansky, and especially clarinetist Kyrill Rybakov -- do superb work. Once again, the vision of Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM and the producer of both of these discs, has realized something very much worth the time to hear.
ECM New Series 1959