Schnittke/Kopytman

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COMPOSERS: Schnittke/Kopytman
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Viola Concerto; Monologue for Viola and Strings; Cantus V for Viola and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Tabea Zimmermann (viola)Jerusalem SO/David Shallon
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55107 2 DDD
Of all the instruments closest in nuance to the human voice, the viola has inspired a vein of musical biography in works by Berlioz, Shostakovich and Schnittke. The latter’s 1985 Viola Concerto charts a life-story that includes laughter and tears, plus the sombre irony of its circumstance: completed ten days before he was struck down by life-threatening illness. Inevitably tragic, it ends with a funeral march where the interplay of soloist and orchestra seems a literal presentation of the death of body and spirit. Poignant echoes from the second movement – a wildly energetic dance that sidesteps into dreamy waltztime – heighten the sense of dissolution.

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Most abstract of the three movements is the first, its dark chromaticisms shared by the terse Monologue of 1989. Zimmermann finds poetry in the anguish, ameliorating the bleakness of this fragile sonata movement with warm, vigorous playing. High temperature in Mark Kopytman’s Cantus V is inherent in the score: colourful and dynamic, with subtle, whispering textures, like Bartókian night music on fast-forward. The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra is impeccable under Shallon’s direction in a recording that maintains truth to nature through the audible perspectives of its sound. Nicholas Williams