Manto and Madrigals

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bartok,Holliger,Killius,Martin∞,Maxwell Davies,Nied,Scelsi & Skalkottas
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: Works by Bartók, Holliger, Killius, Maxwell Davies, Martin∞, Nied, Scelsi & Skalkottas
PERFORMER: Thomas Zehetmair (violin), Ruth Killius (viola)
CATALOGUE NO: ECM 476 3827

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Thomas Zehetmair is the intellectual’s violinist, with a hair-trigger precision of sound and rhythm, and an eager interest in the allusive and tough-minded parts of contemporary music. His wife, the violist Ruth Killius, is clearly made of the same metal. On this CD they come together for a series of violin-viola duets, unearthing many pieces which will be new to most listeners
Not all of these are equally engaging.

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Johannes Nied’s Zugabe shows that trying to make an interesting piece out of just two notes may be a challenge too far, and Giacinto Scelsi’s attempt to summon the oracular frenzy of Manto – female seer and daughter of Tiresias – falls flat for reasons which have nothing to do with Ruth Killius’s impassioned performance. But Holliger’s Three Sketches, the third of which calls on both players to sing, are intriguing; as are the tiny miniatures by Bartók and Maxwell Davies. For me, the most rewarding pieces are the ones that allow the players to show a more varied, human tone. The energetic rhythms of the Duo by the Greek pupil of Schoenberg Nikos Skalkottas come as a welcome surprise. Ivan Hewett