ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Lawrence Power
WORKS: Works by Roslavets, Ligeti, Takemitsu & Prokofiev (transcr. Borisovski)
PERFORMER: Lawrence Power (viola), Simon Crawford-Phillips (piano), Harmonia Mundi Les nouveaux musiciens
CATALOGUE NO: 911756
British viola-player Lawrence Power gives striking accounts of four 20th-century works, exploiting every aspect of his still-maligned instrument’s capability. First up is a sonata by Nicolai Roslavets, one of two for viola he wrote in 1926, and eloquently performed here. Power digs beneath the superficials explored in Yuri Bashmet’s 1993 RCA version. Although Bashmet’s devilish finger-work amazes, especially in the closing section (molto vivace), Power has a virtuoso’s stamina and the imagination and allure that Bashmet’s flamboyant, self-regarding manner so often lacks.
Ligeti’s solo Sonata, composed for Tabea Zimmermann in 1994, is bewilderingly complex, stretching technical resourcefulness almost beyond the scope of playability. Power gives a tremendously accomplished performance, fully the equal of Zimmermann’s (possibly even bettering it at times in the final mind-bending ‘Chaconne chromatique’), but Sony’s recording has more immediacy and resonance than Harmonia Mundi’s drier-sounding production from IRCAM’s Paris studios.
Takemitsu’s A Bird Came Down the Walk is imaginatively done, too; Power achieves the poetic stasis and tonal rapture needed to make its quasi-modal language really tell (the booklet note calls it ‘inhabited silence’), but reserves the undoubted highlight of this collection until last. Power’s accounts of five excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in Borisovski’s transcriptions are superb, completing a very impressive recital disc. Michael Jameson