XENAKIS: Dhipli Zyla. KODÁLY: Duo Op. 7. VASKS: Castillo interior. RAVEL: Sonata for Violin & Cello. BARTÓK: Romanian Folk Dances, BB 68 (arr. Paquin-Saiz) / Marc Paquin, vln; Orfilia Saiz Vega, cel / IBS 92020
The duo of violinist Marc Paquin and cellist Orfilia Saiz Vega, happily, seem to specialize more in contemporary music than the Same Old Same Old, thus the oldest piece in this new collection is the sonata by Ravel. In the liner notes, cellist Saiz Vega states that “This [project] came into being about 25 years ago from a desire…to spend more time together sharing the best pieces in the repertoire…Regarding the music chosen, it would be impossible not to include the two great pillars in the repertoire for these eight strings, Zoltán Kodály’s Duo and Maurice Ravel’s Sonata” in addition to the much more modern pieces by Xenakis and Vasks.
Tellingly, they open with the edgiest piece here, Xenakis’ Dhipli Zyla, which has a strong Greek rhythm combined with quasi-rock-style backbeats. There are also some very interesting shifts and changes within its four-minute duration, and this duo is certainly locked into the music, playing with great intensity of feeling and a propulsive rhythmic thrust. It’s sort of like slapping down an Ace of Spades before you show the rest of your hand.
Their performance of the Kodály Duo is also very dynamic, although here I thought that a bit more relaxation would have given the music more of a Hungarian feel and make it sound less like Cereal Shot From Guns. Nonetheless, there is something to be said for this taut reading, which pulls the work’s structure together brilliantly. They really make it almost sound like a contemporary piece of music, and I liked that about it. I also appreciated Saiz Vega’s incredibly rich cello tone, which offset Paquin’s silvery-bright violin superbly.
Next up is Pēteris Vasks’ Castillo Interior, a typically slow, moody piece by him. I’m not crazy about most of Vasks’ music, but coming as this one did between two upbeat works, it made a very effective contrast.
The duo’s performance of the Ravel Violin-Cello Sonata will be shocking to many ears: it is a crisp, no-nonsense reading that guts all inferences of Romanticism from the score. I found it exciting and invigorating; it certainly sounds different here from the performance I already owned by Arthur Grumiaux and Hermann von Beckerath, which has a much more delicate French sensibility about it, and Paquin’s bright, lean violin tone has more tensile strength in it than that of most French fiddlers.
We end with the duo’s arrangement of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances in a lively and surprisingly idiomatic performance. Truthfully, there’s not much to say about these performances because each and every one of them is terrific. This is clearly one of the finest chamber music CDs of the year, a real gem that deserves to be in everyone’s collection.
—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley
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