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American Viola Works.

American Viola Works. Cathy Basrak, viola; William Koehler and Robert Koenig, piano. Cedille Records 900000 053.

What do George Rochberg, Frederick Jacobi, Alan Shulman, Quincy Porter, and Lowell Liebermann have in common? Well, besides their being almost unheard-of names for most people outside the classical music field, they're all twentieth-century composers and they all wrote works for the viola. On this disc, Rochberg is represented by his Sonata for Viola and Piano (1979); Jacobi by his Fantasy for Viola and Piano (1941); Shulman for his Theme and Variations (1940); Porter for his Speed Etude (1948); and Liebermann for his Sonata for Viola and Piano (1984).

I was much impressed by the playing of the young Ms. Basrak, very fluid, very full, very animated. She has a subtlety of tone that is quite fetching. It helps, of course, that she is playing pieces that spotlight long, sweeping phrases and numerous grand gestures. Probably the only drawback of the program, however, is that the selected compositions all have a sameness about them to probably anyone but a viola aficionado. This doesn't make them at all bad, indeed, they are lovely, but it does keep a listener guessing as to when one work has concluded and the next has begun. On the positive side, unlike so many modern works, these things are mostly Romantic in nature, personal, especially virtuosic in the case of the brief Speed Etude, and uplifting. You may not be inspired by the disc, but you can't help being moved by it on occasion. The performances are supported by Cedille's usual fine sonics, the viola particularly well rendered, although I thought the piano accompaniments sounded rather too wide behind Ms. Basrak's instrument.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Puccio, John
Publication:Sensible Sound
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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