Duo Gazzana: Poulenc Walton Dallapiccola Schnittke Silvestrov (2014)

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Duo Gazzana: Poulenc Walton Dallapiccola Schnittke Silvestrov
The unifying theme of Italian sisters, violinist Natascia Gazzana and pianist Raffaella Gazzana's second release is a celebration of neoclassicism in modern music. The Duo Gazzana performs five 20th and 21st century compositions that, in one manner or another, draw inspiration from mostly the Baroque era.

The focal point of the album is one of composer William Walton's early gems, the seldom- heard "Toccata For Violin & Piano." A haunting reading of this sublime piece opens with Natascia's passionate strings echoing against silent pauses. Raffaella's rumbling intricate lines lead to a stimulating and cinematic dialogue. The contemplative mood is laced with melancholy, as Gazzanas' interpretation is both potently emotive yet endowed with a sophisticated maturity.

The duo's version of composer Luigi Dallapiccola 1955 "Tartiniana Seconda" is suffused with a mystical lyricism. Natascia's wistful bowing is intensely poetic while Raffaella's sparkling cascade of notes adds a touch of intrigue. Together they express with, lucid elegance, the continuum of sentiment within the music that ranges from quiet jubilation to placid ennui.

The only selection from this millennium, composer Valentin Silvestrov's "Hommage à JSB" is a serene and memorable duet. Raffaella's key strikes chime and gently shimmer while her sister's violin contributes bursts of pensive phrases. Pizzicato strings punctuate its quiet conclusion.

The work that is the least Baroque-ish is composer Francis Poulenc's ode to the murdered poet Federico Garcia Lorca "Sonata for Violin & Piano." Penned during the Second World War, this turbulent paean receives a bold yet restrained reading that is raw and honest while eschewing melodrama. Natascia's violin, on the first movement, climbs and descends with breathtaking agility the scales that Raffaella's piano constructs. The dramatic conversation that follows is imbued with quiet sorrow as well as bursts of rage. The second part has nocturnesque tranquility while the third builds momentum with sophisticated legerity to the impressive finale that has pianist's somber chords supporting the violinist's mournful song.

This stimulating and captivating program opens with Alfred Schnittke's 1971 "Suite In The Old Style." From the first, energetic prancing piano notes followed by violin's honeyed, lilting tone a lush and sensuous atmosphere is established. The Gazzanas' performance expresses every nuance in warm, pastel colors. The music glides gracefully from a whimsical dance on "Ballet" to the darkly hued, heady "Menuett" to the vibrant and organic "Fuge" and finally closing with the subtle theatricality of "Pantomime.

Duo Gazzana's sophomore session for ECM is every bit as engaging and delightful as their first and it is a superb addition to the label's uniformly excellent New Music series.

Track Listing: Schnittke: Suite In The Old Style - 1. Pastorale; Schnittke: Suite In The Old Style - 2. Ballet; Schnittke: Suite In The Old Style - 3. Menuett; Schnittke: Suite In The Old Style - 4. Fuge; Schnittke: Suite In The Old Style - 5. Pantomime; Poulenc: Sonata for Violin and Piano - 1. Allegro Con Fuoco; Poulenc: Sonata for Violin and Piano -2.Intermezzo; Poulenc: Sonata for Violin and Piano - 3. Presto Tragico; Silvestrov: Hommage À J. S. B.; Walton: Toccata For Violin & Piano; Dallapiccola: Tartiniana Seconda.

Personnel: Natascia Gazzana: violin; Raffaella Gazzana: piano.

Record Label: ECM Records


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