Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Luciano BERIO
Duets for two violins
Sonata for two violins
Alexander Bulov and Ilya Gringolts (violins)
BIS -CD-1047 (DDD) [57.21]
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This is an important disc but the Berio may cause a few problems as it is no less than 34 miniature duets lasting about 43 minutes. They are very demanding and the two young men play them with great skill. The pieces were intended to be studies or 'violin lessons'. The set was obviously inspired by Bartók's 44 Duets for two violins. Sadly Berio is not the genius that Bartók was. Berio's first piece is called Bartók and runs for 44 seconds. Very slight, don't you think? Other pieces are named after composers such as Shchedrin, Boulez, Ghedini, Globokar, Stravinsky and Kagel.

This work raises many questions as to the purpose of music. Do 34 miniatures make for satisfying listening? Can one call it a concert work? Would a complete performance go down well in a concert? Is this just utility music or music for educational purposes only? Do we now expect all of Rode's many solo violin studies to be recorded?

I think that the Berio pieces are rewarding to play more so than to listen to.

I do not want to be dismissive of Berio. I think he is a very talented composer and I admire much of his work although some of it leaves me cold. But that does not mean it is worthless and I have to accept that music lovers come in various stages of musical appreciation. Some are still on milk while others have advanced to meat and yet others to strong meat! As a youngster I loved Schubert and could not take meat let alone strong meat but now I have 'graduated' I prefer the advanced music far more than the pretty charm of Schubert although I still perform his songs and his splendid Mass in A flat. And yet there are items of my musical diet that I struggle with.

The Denisov sonata is the work that interests me. He was one of the foremost composers in Soviet Russia and a man for whom I have great admiration. He was a musician's musician rather than a music lover's musician. He could and did write in every genre with equal success but sadly he is not recognised. It has always been an irritation to me, as some of my reviews indicate, that we are too well served by some composers and not served at all by others and this gives the uninitiated public the false view that only good music is recorded.

This Sonata has everything from unashamed C major, nostalgia, variations on a folk song type theme and a fugue yet it is not boringly academic. It may present a problem for conservative listeners but if you persevere it could become a rewarding experience. Music that you instantly like is not always durable and after a while you wonder why you ever liked it. Conversely some music that you do not take to at first grows on you and becomes like an old friend.

I have never been disappointed by any of Denisov's music and, for me, his work has a rare quality that I am not even going to attempt to define.

David Wright

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