Classical CD Reviews

D’Amore = KNOX: Malor me bat; MARAIS: Les Folies d’Espagne; MOSER: Manners of Speaking; HUME: A Pavin; ARIOSTI: Prima Lezione; HUBER: …Plainte…; TRADITIONAL: Celtic Dance; I Once Loved a Lass; Jig – Garth Knox, viola d’amore/ Agnes Vesterman, cello – ECM

The viola d’amore as you have never heard it before.

Published on November 13, 2008

D’Amore = KNOX: Malor me bat; MARAIS: Les Folies d’Espagne; MOSER: Manners of Speaking; HUME: A Pavin; ARIOSTI: Prima Lezione; HUBER: …Plainte…; TRADITIONAL: Celtic Dance; I Once Loved a Lass; Jig – Garth Knox, viola d’amore/ Agnes Vesterman, cello – ECM
D’Amore = KNOX: Malor me bat; MARAIS: Les Folies d’Espagne; MOSER: Manners of Speaking; HUME: A Pavin; ARIOSTI: Prima Lezione; HUBER: …Plainte…; TRADITIONAL: Celtic Dance; I Once Loved a Lass; Jig – Garth Knox, viola d’amore/ Agnes Vesterman, cello – ECM New Series 1925, 54:06 ****:

Garth Knox, whose credits include the Ensemble InterContemporain and the Arditti String Quartet, has fallen in love with the 14-pegged, 7-string viola d’amore, an instrument without a country, and one that has been poking its nose into all sorts of music for hundreds of years, yet never quite establishing itself anywhere. Knox has evidently decided that enough is enough, and decided to dedicate an entire CD to showcasing the abilities and beauties of this unusual instrument.

Though Agnes Vesterman does a lot of heavy lifting in the duo parts of this recording, it still remains very much Knox’s show, as we can see from the opening work by the performer himself based on a song attributed to Johannes Ockeghem, Malor me bat (“misfortune batters me”). This work, perhaps more than any on the disc, demonstrates the remarkable versatility and ravishingly gorgeous tone that the instrument is capable of producing, and elevates it to a truly modern level—we do not think of the renaissance when hearing this piece, nor do we consider the instrument as an antique.

Basically the program shifts from the modern to the early baroque, and to great effect. My favorite olden work here is probably the Attilio Ariosti Prima Lezione, one of his “Stockholm Sonatas”, a wondrous work played passionately by Mr. Knox (as are all of the works here). My only reservation might be the last piece, dedicated to Luigi Nono by Klaus Huber called …Plainte… Three of the strings are tuned to third-tone intervals, and Nono lives again in his delicate Webernesque arabesques, though I have not decided how much I like it. Nevertheless, it proves once again Knox’s contemporary aspirations for this wonderfully contrived instrument of old. Outstanding sonics, close yet never obtrusive, and capturing the tonal qualities perfectly, add to an already desirable release.

— Steven Ritter
 




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