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Manto & Madrigals

Rainer Kilius Ó min flaskan friða
Giacinto Scelsi Manto (1957)
Heinz Holliger Drei Skizzen (2006)
Béla Bartók Duo (1902)
Nikos Skalkottas Duo (1938)
Peter Maxwell Davies Midhouse Air (1996)
Johannes Nied Zugabe (2004)

Ruth Killius viola, voice/Thomas Zehetmair violin

ECM New Series 2150 Recorded May 2009

This carefully composed anthology of contemporary pieces for violin and viola stakes a claim to serious attention for yet another unusual chamber music combination (q.v. violin duo and Clarinet/violin/piano trio).

It occurred to me whilst listening that whereas our two-sided brain is adept at attending to two things at once (not because of its macro-physical structure) things get more complicated with more parts going on simultaneously and choices of attention ensue.

Are you always clear about second violin & viola in a string quartet? Conductors try to balance orchestras to help listeners prioritise attention.

We have a general preference for chamber music - one to a part - for home listening, and maybe the above thought explains why a good duo anthology can be especially satisfying; and this is indeed one such.

A marvellous programme, perfectly organised, played and recorded. I've listened through several times on my iPod; ideal.

The only difficulty I have is with ECM's sometimes dour cover images; instead of this one (? a landscape or a man with his tongue out?) I've preferred Keith Pattison's of the artists from an inside page, above.

Peter Grahame Woolf