Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sources - Mandolin artists Alon Sariel and Jacob Reuven's new disc of European music

Background music? Most definitely not! “Sources”, a new disc of music performed on mandolin and mandola by Israeli artists Jacob Reuven and Alon Sariel, recorded at the Jerusalem Music Centre October 2009, will involve the listener from beginning to end and on various levels. The two artists, equally at home in both oriental- and western music, have chosen to play European works of three centuries, none originally written for plucked instruments. Take, for example, J.S.Bach’s Two-Part Inventions, five of which are performed here, pleasing in their individual entities and in the differences between them, are certainly not a far cry from how they would sound on harpsichord or clavichord.

French composer, violinist and dancer Jean-Marie Leclair’s (1697-1764) violin music, a paradigm of clarity, balance, harmony and good taste, makes for delightful listening in his Sonata no.1 in G major. Influenced by Italian style but clothed in French elegance, Reuven and Sariel contrast texture and timbre, presenting the lilting middle movement in a caressing, singing fashion placed between the energetic, joyful outer movements. Moving further into the Classical style, the artists play a Sonata by prolific French composer and pedagogue Michel Corette (1707-1795), one of whose instructional books was on mandolin technique. The performance of Corette’s sonata abounds in touching, delicate melodies and fine solo playing, with the final Presto intense and exciting.

For lovers of recorder repertoire familiar with G.Ph.Telemann’s Canonic Sonatas, do take the time to listen to Canonic Sonata no.1 in G major on this disc. Articulate, joyful and vivacious, Reuven and Sariel give its imitation youthful freshness with a smattering of ornamentation. The pensive Adagio movement is handled with fragility.

One of the most distinguished violinists and teachers of the Belgian school, Charles Auguste de Beriot (1802-1870) composed much music for the violin. His Twelve Easy Duos for Two Violins opus 87 (c.1845) can be heard on this disc. Reuven and Sariel’s reading of them is well crafted, emphasizing their singing quality, their small tonal contrasts, their Classical naivete, understatement and charm. Add to this dance-like rhythms and moments of bravura with tremolo replacing violin vibrato and you get a collection of tasty morsels.

Norwegian violinist, conductor and composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) arranged the Passacaglia from G,F.Handel’s Harpsichord Suite no. 7 in G minor, scoring it for violin and viola. A highly demanding work, Reuven and Sariel’s virtuosic playing of it takes the variations through a gamut of emotions, textures and dynamics to create a brilliant performance.

Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote his Forty Four Duos for Two Violins” in 1932 for pedagogical purposes. Reuven and Sariel play 12 of these miniatures on the disc, most of them authentic folk tunes of a variety of ethnic origins. A celebration of complex folk rhythms and modes, feisty dissonances and bi-tonality, the artists wholeheartedly create a number of richly colored canvases, providing the best of entertainment and enjoyment to the listener. A disc of interest and artistic depth.

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