Classical CD Reviews

Viktoria Mullova – The Peasant Girl – Viktoria Mullova, violin/ The Matthew Barley Ensemble – Onyx

While most of the jazz pieces are innocuous, they can also seem a bit trite.

Published on April 25, 2012

Viktoria Mullova – The Peasant Girl – Viktoria Mullova, violin/ The Matthew Barley Ensemble – Onyx

Viktoria Mullova – The Peasant Girl – Viktoria Mullova, violin/ The Matthew Barley Ensemble – Onyx 4070 (2 CDs), 90:31 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***1/2:

Cellist Matthew Barley is Viktoria Mullova’s husband, and moves in somewhat more improvisational-based circles than Mullova, though she shows a decided interest in jazz and other genres. This album is based on what might loosely be called the Gypsy influence, with some connection tied in to either the composers or the players or both. Mullova herself considers the influence not insubstantial as it reflects her Ukrainian country roots, only several generations away from working the land herself, according to the notes.

Unfortunately, as is often the case in these mixed genre albums, the idea that this is “music that is blissfully free from the misleading shackles of genre” rarely holds sway. Third Stream music is always going to be plagued by the very real concern that each genre fails to enrich the other, or at the very worst lessens the quality and impact of each. You can’t assume that opera and rock music automatically merge seamlessly; though there are some notable exceptions, these are just that—exceptions—and hardly the rule. The same applies with almost any other two genres you might care to name, and here we are given three, some performed pristinely, others combined into a rather incongruous mixture. In most cases on this album the combos are at the very least acceptable, but it must be said that in the case of Mullova her improvisations are not convincing whereas her “classical” contributions, like the amazing Bartok Duo, Op. 7, are.

So while most of the jazz pieces are innocuous, they can also seem a bit trite. This whole album, spread over two CDs, could have lost 10 minutes to fit onto one. Mullova’s classical readings are flawless, but comparing her jazz outings to the best that the jazz world has to offer is simply not fair to either of them. Onyx gives her lovely sound. Many might like this, especially fans of mixed genre, and you know who you are.

TrackList:

1 – DuOud arr. Matthew Barley: For Nedim (For Nadia)

2 – John Lewis/Bratsch arr. Barley: Django

3 – Florian Hermann arr. Barley: Dark Eyes

4 – Bratsch arr. Barley: Er Nemo Klantz with Bartók duos

No.7 – Walachian Song; No.11 – Pillow Dance and No.44 – Transylvanian Dance

5 – Weather Report (Joe Zawinul) arr. Barley: The Peasant 9.34

6 – Béla Bartók: Duos with improvisations;

7 Duos for violin and cello (from 44 Duos for two violins):

No.10 – Ruthenian Song; No.22 – Mosquito Dance; No.33 – Harvest Song, No.28 – Sorrow; No.26 – Teasing Song; No.11 – Cradle Song, No.35 – Ruthenian Kolomeika

7 – Matthew Barley (on a Russian folk theme – Lyuba): Yura

8 – Bratsch arr. Barley: Bi Lovengo

9 – Weather Report (Joe Zawinul) arr. Barley: The Pursuit of the Woman with the Feathered Hat

10 – Youssou N’Dour: Life

11 – Zoltán Kodály: Duo for violin and cello op.7 (1914)

—Steven Ritter




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