Duets for two violins
Sonata for two
Alexander Bulov and Ilya Gringolts
BIS -CD-1047 (DDD)
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
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
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
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.