Bach, Ravel, Schnittke, Sibelius, Barkauskas

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COMPOSERS: Bach,Barkauskas,Ravel,Schnittke,Sibelius
LABELS: Ondine
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Strings Attached
WORKS: Partita in E for Solo Violin, BWV 1006; Violin Sonata; Violin Sonata No. 1
PERFORMER: Pekka Kuusisto (violin)
Violinist Pekka Kuusisto was born in Finland in 1976. His education has run through the usual avenues to be expected of a potentially world-class violinist, including time at the Sibelius Academy, Helsinki, and at American conservatoires, with a roster of distinguished teachers. In 1995 he became the first Finn to be awarded the International Jean Sibelius Violin Prize.


Three Sibelius pieces feature on this disc: a Romance, a Rondino and a Mazurka. They represent the lighter side of the composer’s music, and are beautifully played with the accompaniment of Raija Kerppo, herself among Finland’s leading younger pianists. In addition, there’s a healthy supply of 20th-century music, including a fiery account of Alfred Schnittke’s First Violin Sonata. A solo Toccata by the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Barkauskas makes one curious to hear more.


However, the real gems are a lucid reading of the Ravel G major Sonata and of Bach’s E major solo Partita. Kuusisto grasps the silvery soul of the Ravel, save for its finale an elusive work full of strange, jazz elements. In the testing ground of Bach, he also acquits himself with flying colours, refusing to play the Romantic card, combining skill and judgement that should take him far. Nicholas Williams