1919 Viola Sonatas

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COMPOSERS: Bloch,Clarke,Hindemith
LABELS: Avi-music
ALBUM TITLE: 1919 Viola Sonatas
WORKS: Clarke: Viola Sonata; Hindemith: Viola Sonata; Bloch: Suite
PERFORMER: Barbara Buntrock (viola); Daniel Heide (piano)


The proliferation of musical styles and ‘isms’ that emerged following the Great War was virtually unprecedented. Until the 1920s it was still just about possible to pigeon-hole composers into generic groups, but from now on the increasing tendency was towards diverging independence of creative voice. How far this process had already gained pace can be gathered from the three viola masterworks on this fine new disc, all composed in 1919 yet markedly different in tone.

Interestingly, the Clarke and Hindemith Sonatas tied for first place in a competition financed by the American patron of chamber music, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge (Bloch also entered his Suite, which missed out on the top prize). Clarke’s Sonata wears its Romantic credentials with pride, closing with a long slow movement inspired by the sensually evocative poetry of Alfred de Musset. Barbra Buntrock and Daniel Heide capture the music’s chromaticised/whole-tone stream of consciousness to perfection, inflecting its glowing phrases with a velvety suppleness.

Unconventionally structured in three movements that flow into one another, Hindemith’s Sonata fuses the last vestiges of Romantic impulse with a post-war aesthetic that sought to contain outward shows of motion within a neo-classical framework. By comparison, Bloch’s four-movement Suite takes Debussy’s probingly experimental middle-period as its creative springboard. At times Heide creates the uncanny impression of merely breathing on the keys, creating the ideal soundworld for Buntrock, who maintains her golden sound at all dynamic levels throughout the instrument’s range.


Julian Haylock