The husband and wife team of violinist Thomas Zehetmair and violist Ruth Killius is best known for its work in the Zehetmair Quartet and, more specifically, for that group's award- winning recording of Schumann's First and Third String Quartets (ECM, 2001). On Manto and Madrigals the creative pair assembles an equally creative recital of duet miniatures from the 20th and 21st Centuries. This is difficult music, requiring something between attention and careful study. Darkly dissonant, the disc's repertoire is challenging and rewarding.
A brief spring morning does exist among the brooding considerationan early piece by Béla Bartók, "Duo" (1902). Not exactly juvenilia, "Duo" was composed by Bartók as an exercise for two violinist friends while all studied at the Liszt Academy. A brief 44 seconds, "Duo" is constructed in such a way that both musicians play the same melody except one plays the score upside down and from back to front. The result is a beautiful and pastoral dream fragment, a wisp of memory replete with natural counterpoint and an innocent charm that sounds nothing like later Bartók. Short, but sweet...very sweet.
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