Theme and Variations

Thoughts and experiences of exploring classical, jazz, and other art music.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More Beriot

Two other CDs have been playing for me lately, one of solo violin works, and another of violin duets.

The solo works include his 12 Scenes ou Caprices pour le violon, Op. 109, plus Nine Studies, and his Prelude ou Improvisation, Op. Post., performed by Bella Hristova. The scenes are given titles that indicate the mood of the music. For example, the first one, La Separation, begins with a sad largo followed by a con moto section, both of which return to end the scene. La Fougue (The Spirit, The Fire) is a vivace con fuoco with a martial section of double stops.

The Nine Studies are said to be "vintage Beriot study material that rises to the level of artistry in the hands of a master," according to the CD liner notes.

The last work, the Prelude ou Improvisation has few bar lines, and alternates between quiet and energetic, lyrical and virtuosic playing. Before the work is done, the performer will have used a number of violinist's tricks.

By far, though, my favorite has been the recording of violin duets. There are three Duo Concertants, Op. 57, each of them consisting of three movements. These are great works, with some beautiful lyric sections. They have been very comforting to me during my migraine attacks, as I listen to them in the dark. The recording also includes Six Characteristic Duos, Op. 113, based on themes from a Prince Yusupov's Ballet Espagnol. These are a set of fun works, the violins "imitating" guitars, playing various themes, including a fandango and a bolero.

I found a YouTube video of the artists, Christine Sohn and John Marcus, making their Naxos recording of the duets.

These Beriot recordings have been a great discovery for me, and I'll be on the watch for more of his works (I have already ordered a recording of piano trios). I highly recommend these works for anyone's collection. Since many of them are on the Naxos label, the CD's are not costly, and are indeed a bargain.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Charles-Auguste de Beriot

ArkivMusic is a great source for classical music recordings. They also have a weekly e-mail which advertises weekend specials, and introduces some new, sometimes off the beaten path, musical recordings. It was through one of those that I learned about Charles-Auguste de Beriot. So, as with Balakirev, I'm going backwards a little bit in the alphabet, this time with three CD's of violin concerti.

Some of the sources on Beriot indicate that he is familiar to many violinists, though more for practice pieces than for concert works. Beriot wrote ten violin concerti in all, and I was able to find recordings of concerti 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9. Two of the recordings come from the Naxos label, while the third is a German label CPO.

I love it when I discover a new Romantic-era composer, and Beriot, who lived from 1802 to 1870, lands right into that period. His works reflect the time as well. His Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 16, is a one movement work subtitled "Military." And the piece does sound like it could be arranged for a marching or military band. He was influenced by Nicolo Paganini, as indicated by the virtuosic second and third concerti.

The sources say that Beriot was the father of the so-called Franco-Belgian school of violin playing; I didn't know there was such a thing. But in a neat case of serendipity, the school is mentioned in the interview with Hilary Hahn I linked in the entry below.

My method for writing these entries involves spending time with the recording(s) of interest, in alphabetical order as they are arranged in my collection. Sometimes, the pieces don't hold my interest, and I find my mind wandering away from the music and onto something else. I didn't find that with the Beriot recordings. I was able to play and listen to them time and again. I suspect that for many people music, particularly classical music, is something to occupy the background as they do something else unrelated. When I work with these recordings (and at other times, too) I just sit (or, during a migraine attack, lay in the dark) and listen, as I would at a concert. I find this to be an excellent way to spend time, and sometimes I come away from hearing a recording and feeling as if I have just experienced something very special. That is how I have felt with these concerti.

I also have a CD of solo violin works, plus a neat recording of works for two violins. I'll be spending my time with them next.

Hilary Hahn Interview

A Q&A interview with Hilary Hahn by Opera Today has been posted on the web. Read it here.