Concertos by Eötvös performed by Midori, Jean-Guihen Queyras and Martin Grubinger

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COMPOSERS: Eotvos
LABELS: Alpha Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Eötvös
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2 (DoReMi); Cello Concerto Grosso; Speaking Drums
PERFORMER: Midori (violin), Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Martin Grubinger (voice, percussion); Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France/Peter Eötvös
CATALOGUE NO: Alpha Classics 208  

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Cello Concerto Grosso (2011) is a work of taut cogency and rhythmic drive, the soloist embedded in an eight-strong cello section. Eötvös was inspired by ancient Transylvanian men’s dances, and his cellists are a rough bunch, employing ‘slapped’ Bartók pizzicatos and the wood of their bows to clattering effect, the soloist slaloming crazily among them. Jean-Guihen Queyras brings verve and eloquence to the dramatic soliloquy of the second movement, and plays athlete and clown in a finale of irresistible wit and imagination.

DoReMi (2012), a tribute to Midori, finds her on feisty form. It’s characterised by a spangling transparency, from its three-triangle opening, to the rapt cadenza underpinned by low viola drones. It’s a long, frenetic, hard-to-follow play for the soloist, though one cannot fault this lucid performance under Eötvös’s high-energy direction.

Speaking Drums – part-growled, spoken, splenetically screamed by its extraordinary dedicatee, Martin Grubinger – is a spectacular piece of theatre that clearly needs to be seen. There are thrilling interactions between soloist and orchestra, and each cadenza, inspired by the complex rhythms and speech syllables employed by Indian tabla players, is a virtuoso tour de force. Eötvös conjures subtle textures and a rare intimacy, but the whole is undermined by chunks of music so derivative of the Rite of Spring one can only assume it was a conscious homage.

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Helen Wallace