Honegger, Martinu, Bach, Pintscher, Ravel

COMPOSERS: Bach,Honegger,Martinu,Pintscher,Ravel
ALBUM TITLE: Duos for Violin and Cello
WORKS: Works by Honegger, Martinu, Bach, Pintscher, Ravel
PERFORMER: Frank-Peter Zimmermann (violin), Heinrich Schiff (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: 476 3150
Of the two pieces on this disc unknown to me, I find Martinu’s Duo by some way the easier to understand. It has recognisable shapes, climaxes, even jokes, all assembled with such skill that one is unaware of the limitations of a pair of string instruments. In Pintscher’s Study , commissioned by the artists, one could be forgiven for being unaware that strings are involved at all: the wind howls round a chimney, rolling stock is shunted on a distant siding. I’m still struggling to make sense of it all, though I can hear that around halfway something like a theme emerges, and certainly the noises themselves are intriguing. On the terra firma of two canons from the Art of Fugue, Zimmermann and Schiff impress with their rhythmic vitality, even if some of their triplets might offend the purist. The Honegger Sonatine, one of his jolliest pieces, written in 1932 after nearly 18 barren months, is despatched with splendid brio, and the off-the-wall recitatives in the last movement are hilarious. Even if the church acoustic is a touch too resonant for this sparky little work, they play the Ravel as a big work, with fierce accents and wide dynamic range. The same approach informs the BIS recording with Krysa and Thedéen (CD-916). There is not a great deal to choose between the versions, except that Zimmermann and Schiff find more contrasts in the second and fourth movements of the Ravel and in general the sound/scratch ratio is slightly more favourable. On the other hand you might wish to swap ECM’s Pintscher for Erwin Schulhoff’s Duo of 1925 programmed on the BIS CD, a vigorous piece with Ravelian and Stravinskyan moments but, ultimately, a voice of its own. Roger Nichols