ALBUM TITLE: Kurtág
WORKS: Kafka Fragments
PERFORMER: Caroline Melzer (soprano), Nurit Stark (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: BIS BIS-2175 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Kurtág shares with Webern an ability to craft jewel-like miniatures without a wasted note. Most of these fragments are very short indeed – sometimes under a minute or even half a minute. The performing challenges are immense, not only in the often extreme virtuosity of the music, but also in having to move from the jagged to the lyrical in the blink of an eye. Caroline Melzer and Nurit Stark yield nothing to previous performers in penetrating the depth and breadth of emotion that Kurtág conveys, and it helps that this is the best recorded version available, allowing their wide range of tone, colour and dynamics to be heard to full effect.
The performers also have to weave these contrasting songs into a convincing whole. The pacing here is completely involving, with longer songs acting as points of thoughtful cumulation. Especially moving is the 20th song, over seven minutes long: the extended lines are sustained with searing intensity and Stark’s always impressive double stops are seamless and tragic, underpinning Melzer’s resigned devastation.