Henze, D Matthews, Smirnov & Hakim

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COMPOSERS: D Matthews,Henze,Smirnov & Hakim
LABELS: Metier
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: ƒtude Philharmonique
WORKS: Solo violin works
PERFORMER: Peter Sheppard Skaerved (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: MSV CD 92028
A tireless champion of new music for the violin, and leader of the Kreutzer Quartet, Peter Sheppard Skaerved is the dedicatee of numerous new works for the instrument. This disc of works written within the last 40 years, taking its title from Henze’s Étude philharmonique, shows Sheppard Skaerved at his breathtaking best. His sleek purity of tone and technical brilliance are almost overshadowed by his gift for communicating these demanding pieces with effortless spontaneity.

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The wild beauty of Naji Hakim’s Sonata is compelling, Sheppard Skaerved achieving a supreme softness to his tone colour even in the most aggressive passages. Equally powerful are David Matthews’s Three Studies: they were commissioned as test pieces for the Carl Flesch competition, but Sheppard Skaerved transcends their virtuosic demands with beguiling ease to bring out their expressive detail. The Two Fugues by Dmitri Smirnov take us into a different world again, introspective, yet with a bright-edged vitality.

Henze’s three works are performed with the utmost dramatic intensity. The three movements of the potent Sonata are each based on a figure from the commedia dell’arte tradition: Sheppard Skaerved brings freshness and exhilaration to its highly coloured, vivid melodies.

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The only disappointment is Matthews’s Fuga, in which the violin embarks on the seemingly impossible: a four-part fugue. Sheppard gives the best possible account of its tortuous twists and turns, but its inevitable awkwardness makes it a rather unrewarding piece. That aside, this is a fascinating collection, the spaciousness of the recording serving to underline Sheppard Skaerved’s luminous clarity of tone.