Miklós RÓZSA (1907-1995)
Introduction and Allegro, Op.44 (1988) [11:34]
Vladimír GODÁR (b.1956)
O Crux – Meditation (for cello, 1999 arr. viola 2006) [11:56]
Krzysztof PENDERECKI (b.1933)
Cadenza for solo viola (1984) [6:34]
Sarabande (for violin 2000-01, arr. viola 2006) 3:47]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Sonata-Song for solo viola (1976) [13:22]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971)
Elegy for solo viola (1944) [5:47]
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Dža more (1990) (arr. viola as Dzha more [5:39]
Kristina Fialová (viola)
rec. February-March 2015, Martinů Hall, Lichtenstein Palace, Prague
ARCODIVA UP 0174-2 231 [59:22]

The Czech Republic sports a phalanx of outstanding young viola players, of whom one of the best-known is Jitka Hosprová. This CD, which bears the title ‘Introduction’ for obvious reasons, features the disc debut of her compatriot Kristina Fialová, Moravian–born, who studied in Brno with Miroslav Kovář and in Prague with Jan Peřuška. Further studies have taken her to Copenhagen and Dresden and a series of master classes – yes, the dreaded master classes – and competition wins, of which she has many under her belt, including the Watson Forbes Viola Competition and the Johannes Brahms. The booklet notes report that she has recorded for Arco Diva and Dacapo, so I assume this is her first solo debut CD rather than one performing as a member of an ensemble.

She has constructed a challenging but successful programme, all the pieces being cast for solo viola. This is very much a concentrated focus and requires a degree of expressive variety to ensure concentration doesn’t flag. Perhaps surprisingly – though he did write a fine Viola Concerto – Fialová cites Rózsa as her favourite composer. The Introduction and Allegro is played with sure understanding of its various and changeable moods, not least those passages of stirring intensity and pastoral reverie. Fialová graces it with her attractively warm tone. Valdimír Godár is one of Slovakia’s best-known composers – Mater is something of a hit disc – and his long-breathed, resonantly compelling O Crux – Meditation, originally written for cello in 1999, and revised for viola in 2006, is especially urgent when the music ventures into the upper strings. Penderecki’s Cadenza and the Sarabande are both compact examples of his art. Cadenza closely followed the Viola Concerto and is as urgent in its way as the last quarter of Godár’s work, whilst Sarabande is a reflective and intimate piece, apart from the vigorous B section, and is the piece with which Fialová chooses to close the disc, appropriately.

Khachaturian’s Sonata-Song is more familiar and a very late work flecked with Armenian folkloric elements, though they’re not, perhaps, quite as pronounced as in many of his earlier pieces. It’s the quotient of musing melancholy to which the violist responds most vividly. The most widely known of all the compositions is Stravinsky’s Elegy – almost a viola repertoire piece by now. Sylvie Bodorová’s Dzha more is based on one of her earlier works called Dža more and is heard here in world premičre form for solo viola. As so often Bodorová, who embodies so many of the discrete elements of the old Empire – Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Jewish – brings to the fore her immersion in Romany folklore in this work. She never pastiches but invariably evokes through rhythm, bowing, and feeling.

Much here is meditative, and some things are explicitly melancholy, but the effect is not muted or mournful. Fialová has been well served by her engineers in a familiar recording venue in Prague, and it’s clear from this disc that she is an inquisitive, thoughtful and expert instrumentalist.

Jonathan Woolf
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