These soulful Spanish and Argentinean songs arranged by violist Kim Kashkashian and pianist Robert Levin are well suited to their expressive and expansive playing. Most of the songs, ranging from works by Granados, de Falla, and Montsalvatge to early Ginastera, are written in a late romantic to early modern idiom, and many incorporate a strong folk element. The selections include rowdy, rhythmically charged dance-like songs, tender lullabies, and many flavors of love songs, from the exultant to the despairing. In addition to the better-known composers, Argentineans Carlos Guastavino and Carlos López-Buchardo make extraordinarily fine contributions. The choices of repertoire are excellent; each one of these songs is a jewel, and the ordering of the selections artful, including the surprisingly effective repetition of two songs at different points in the program. The transcriptions are inventive and imaginative, with the vocal lines idiomatically adapted for the viola's expressive capabilities.
These two sonatas, originally written for clarinet, marked the end of an intense period of depression for Brahms, during which his creative energies had all but faded. Kim Kashkashian, whose command of the viola unearths an even deeper realm of possibility in this already engaging diptych, faithfully captures the somber circumstances of its creation. In doing so, she shows that the viola is no less an instrument of breath, drawing from deep within her lungs the sheer vocal power required to carry across such arresting music.
The viola was Hindemith's instrument (though he could play almost any), and he wrote some of his most expressive chamber music for it. This two-disc set includes all four of Hindemith's sonatas for solo violin and the three for viola and piano. I prefer the wildness of Hindemith's earlier music to the sometimes arid calm of his later music, so listeners like myself who like Hindemith can have a feast here as most of these are early works. They are played with energy and passion by an outstanding violist and a fine pianist.
This beautifully programmed CD presents three settings for viola and orchestra and a more eloquent statement about the beauty of the viola as an instrument would be hard to imagine (except for perhaps including Vaughan Williams' 'Flos Campi'). The viola finds that middle voice between violin and cello, a rich tone with a built in quality of mournfulness. That quality has inspired the works on this recording and the result is some of the more wistful music ever written. Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra with the superb violist Kim Kashkashian.