Barratt-Due: Duo for Viola and Piano ‘Correspondances’; A Benjamin: Viola Sonata; Hindemith: Viola Sonata, Op.11/4; Enescu: Concertstück; plus works by Vieutemps and Ysaÿe
Eivind Ringstad (viola), David Meier (piano)
Rubicon RCD 1050 69:14 mins
The Norwegian violist Eivind Ringstad won the Eurovision Young Musicians competition in 2012, and this is his debut recorded recital. It is anything but a play-safe piece of programming.
Arthur Benjamin’s Sonata for viola and piano is the opener, and both Ringstad and his excellent accompanist David Meier catch vividly its unsettled wartime atmosphere (it dates from 1942), especially in the nervy instability of the Waltz movement. The hyperactive Toccata finale is technically testing, but Ringstad’s attack is never ugly and his intonation seems infallible.
Hindemith’s Viola Sonata (the Op. 11, No. 4 ) also features, and its opening ‘Fantasie’ showcases Ringstad’s ripe, rhapsodic tone and the cleanness of his fingerwork in the outbursts of elaborate filigree. Charm and panache are in Ringstad’s armoury too, in a transcription of Ysaÿe’s Caprice d’après l’Étude en forme de valse de Saint-Saëns (originally for violin and orchestra).
But the most interesting piece on the disc is probably Peder Barratt-Due’s Correspondances, premiered by Ringstad at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival. A sharp-edged work that juxtaposes spiky, staccato rhythms with a keeningly lyrical central section, it shatters preconceptions of the viola as a somewhat stuffy, conservative instrument, especially in Ringstad’s commandeering performance.