Dancer on a Tightrope

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bacewicz,Cage,Gubaidulina,Hindemith,Prokofiev,Schnittke
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Dancer on a Tightrope
WORKS: Works by Bacewicz, Hindemith, Gubaidulina, Prokofiev, Schnittke and Cage
PERFORMER: Bartosz Woroch (violin), Mei Yi Foo (piano, keyboard)


The 20th century saw the violin reinvented. No longer celebrating the instrument primarily for its lyricism and virtuosity, composers came to reimagine the violin as an instrument of shadow and bite, newly tapping its potential for rhythm and articulation over melody and tone. Dancer on a Tightrope gives voice to this fresh identity with a blend of more familiar and lesser-known works, performed with aplomb by violinist Bartosz Woroch and pianist Mei Yi Foo.

The disc’s central work (and namesake) is by Tatarstan-born Sofia Gubaidulina and perfectly captures an atmosphere of threat and surprise. Commissioned in 1993 by the Library of Congress, this thrilling 15-minute work for violin and piano explores (in the composer’s own words) ‘life as risk and art as flight into another existence’. The violin line dances and spits over an idiosyncratic keyboard line where the pianist must stroke the instrument’s strings with a glass tumbler to create a mysterious, zither-like sound, all performed with suitable punch and fire by Bartosz Woroch and Mei Yi Foo.

The menace of Gubaidulina’s Dancer on a Tightrope and Polish composer Bacewicz’s ferocious Sonata No. 2 for Solo Violin (1958) is balanced by the poise of Schnittke’s delicate, ‘polystylistic’ Fuga for Violin (1953) and the lovely simplicity of Cage’s Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950), to which Woroch brings a suitable depth and stillness of tone. Sonatas for solo violin by Hindemith (Op. 31 No. 2) and Prokofiev (Op. 115), played with great technical flair, complete this courageous and accomplished disc.


Kate Wakeling