2007, Music

Concerto funebre; Sonatas and Suites for Solo Violin (2007) by Karl Amadeus Hartmann, peformed by Alina Ibragimova

This is an excellent collection of Hartmann’s violin music.

The Concerto funebre is like a string quartet writ large, where the lead violin’s role is exaggerated and the other three instruments assume lesser roles than normal, only their sound is trebled (or what have you). The first movement lulls you into thinking this is some pretty conventional music, but it soon stands that on its ear. A good mix of tradition and forward thinking. And, like so much of the music inspired by what the Nazis were up to, it is truly stirring.

The first of the suites for solo violin seems at least a little inspired by Bach but its tonal palette, for lack of a better word, is so much more “modern”. It uses the full range of the instrument. Oh, and the fugue in particular is really neat. Actually, so is the rondo.

The second suite for solo violin is a lot more subtle than the first and I might even use the world “pastoral” to describe one of the movements. It gets a lot more strident as it goes on and the finale in particular is neat.

The first violin sonata is just downright bonkers. Flirting with the recent tonal revolution in its movement – which is like being slapped in the face compared to some of the other sonatas of its time – and it settles down a lot in the subsequent middle movements but that doesn’t make it any less striking. A wonderful blend of old and new.

The second sonata might be the equal of the first. Like his “funeral” concerto, it starts out lulling you into believing this is a traditional work but this time, unlike the concerto, it takes off in a matter of seconds into this strange world Hartmann’s music inhabits, where everything teeters on the edge but never goes over. (Or rarely.)


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