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CD Review

Solo

  • Georg Philipp Telemann:
  • Fantasias for Solo Violin in B Flat Major, B minor & D Major
  • Johann Sebastian Bach:
  • Violin Sonata #3 in C Major, BWV 1005
  • Franz Schubert:
  • Ländler in D Major, D. 370
  • Ländler in B Flat Major, D. 374
  • Ländler in F Sharp minor, D. 355
  • Ländler in A Major and E Major, D. 640
  • Ástor Piazzolla: Tango Études Nos. 1-6
Tomas Cotik, violin
Centaur CRC3374
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In this program Cotik performs music by composers who were born as early as 1681 and who died as recently as 1992. The first three are of course very well known; Piazzolla is less well known but his has a considerable number of recordings, including two – one by Cotik – which I have previously reviewed here; and another violinist, who has played Piazzolla on occasion, recently appeared with the Milwaukee Symphony. Both Piazzolla and Cotik were born in Argentina, where the tango is a favorite form.

In all of these works, Cotik performs brilliantly. In fact, his tone and articulation, especially notable in the Telemann, is astonishing. His playing there, and in the Bach, is facilitated by his use of a baroque bow, as he himself says in his notes accompanying this disc, worth quoting at length: "I enjoyed the expressive potential of the baroque bow, the transparent textures, and the effortlessness with which it went "around the curves", changing strings and direction with ease. The ability to differentiate subtle nuances at the beginning and end of each stroke and the subsequent numerous possibilities of connection between those notes appealed to me as well. The baroque bow naturally helped me interpret the music and avoid wrong accents in this repertoire. Furthermore, it allowed for a lighter sound, quicker, more flowing tempi, and lively articulations." One can hear all this in the recording.

What I have just quoted provides an explanation of the timing of the fugue in the Bach Sonata, which Cotik performs in eight minutes and 41 seconds, remarkably faster than several other recorded performances I checked: Lara St. John, on a baroque instrument as it happens, takes that movement at 10: 57; Ingrid Matthews, with Settle Baroque, takes 11.03; Christoph Barati 9:38; Hilary Hahn, on her first recording, did it at 11:45; and Hlíf Sigurjónsdóttir, on a recording I liked and reviewed, does it at 14:04 (1). I don't usually make exact note of tempo variations, but this difference was so striking I simply had to. In spite of his fleetness, Cotik's performance is always clean, fast but not rushed.

The Ländler, in ¾ time, an Austrian and south German predecessor of the waltz, is a slow dance, and Cotik does not rush his playing of these pieces, one of which is as long as 7:26. Schubert's dances show here the kind of lilting quality that some of Dvorak's music has and they are an engaging pleasure to listen to. They are also danceable. Cotik's phrasing and sonority are clear and generally excellent, even when there are double stops. It may be mentioned here that Cotik wrote his doctoral dissertation on music by Schubert.

The set of six Tango Études by Ástor Piazzolla (originally written for solo flute in 1987) are not the lighthearted pieces that someone might possibly expect. They express a wide variety of moods; two of them are expressly identified as expressing anxiety. One Lento is marked "Meditativo" and another "marco e energico." The composer called for exaggerated accents and breathing "in order to imitate the way in which Tangos are played on the Bandoneon."

The recording quality greatly adds to the appeal of this CD. The sound is resonant without being reverberant, the level is optimal and miking is at the right distance to obviate both harshness and thinness of tone.

Very highly recommended.

Copyright © 2015, R. James Tobin

Trumpet