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Mendy Smith

Viola Sonata CD Review

December 21, 2011 at 8:20 AM

OK, I'm not your typical "Reviewer of CD's", but this is one that is near and dear to my heart: Mid-Century Modern. My ex-teacher from Oregon just put out his first CD -- with 20th c. works by Rebecca Clarke, Marion Bauer, Jacob Avshalomov and Tomas Svoboda. -- which I got as a Christmas/December gift and had the chance to listen to it on my drive home from work today.

Most notable were the sudden changes in dynamics. The ppp were so soft that I cranked up the volume to hear it over the large trucks while driving down the freeway, then to be blasted away by the FF sections moments later. Oh how I wished I could make dynamic changes like that! I've tried and failed so many times to get that same effect....

In one movement of the Clarke (yes, the Clarke, what I've been struggling to learn for so many years), he did a run up the fingerboard in a manner that made me chuckle. It had to be some sort of an up-bow staccato with a little slide at the end to get that effect. I could just imagine the look on his face in that passage!

Joel taught me that shifts should be heard, yet graceful and tasteful. How he executed the shifts demonstrated just that. Not 'slurpy' but quite pleasant. Cary (the pianist), is an amazing collaborator. There was never a moment that the viola and piano were out of balance. It was a good melding of two very different instruments.

Throughout the Clarke there was a tug and pull of tempos - an anticipation of the next note then a relaxing back into phrase. Not so much to make it uncomfortable, but enough to have you sitting at the edge of your seat anticipating what was to come next and then relaxing back into your chair once again.

I have all week to listen to the rest of the CD on my way to work and back. Getting stuck in traffic can now be an enoyable experience.

It puts those notes he made in the margins of my sheet music into perspective.

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