JS Bach: Violin Sonata No. 3 in C; Hindemith: Sonata for Solo Viola; Ligeti: Sonata for Solo Viola
Jesus Rodolfo (viola)
Odradek ODRCD 367 63:21 mins
This recital, entitled Transfixing Metamorphosis, sets out to show how the technique and spirit of Bach’s solo string writing has been transmuted in the work of two 20th-century masters. It makes for a fairly tough listen. Though formidable in technique, the young Spanish virtuoso Jesus Rodolfo inclines more towards intensity of delivery than beauty of sound, and his grainy, slightly dry tone is barely mitigated by a resonant recording acoustic. Then, too, the transposing of the Bach sonata down a fifth to F major, to take in the viola’s lower range, seems to muddy its sound and compound its formidable technical difficulties. And in the vast and taxing fugal second movement there are moments of dodgy intonation, though Rodolfo finds a more convincing flow for the fast finale.
Hindemith, whose side-career as a professional violist included premiering Walton’s Viola Concerto, was evidently a pretty downright, no nonsense player himself, and his neo-baroque Sonata for Solo Viola Op. 11, No. 5 (1919) comes from his most feisty youthful period of acrid chromaticism – though Rodolfo floats its slow second movement with plaintive eloquence. Ligeti’s late six-movement Sonata for Solo Viola (1991-94) ranges from a post-Bartók folklorism – in which the ‘off’ intonation that we hear is, in this instance, exactly what he asks for – to an imposing ‘Chaconne chromatique’. But here, for all his energy, Rodolfo is both less rhythmically accurate and less characterful than the recording made under Ligeti’s supervision by the work’s original performer Tabea Zimmermann.