Friday, May 7, 2010

"Modern Music for Recorder and Piano" - a disc recorded by Leora Vinik and Liora Ziv-Li

“Modern Music for Recorder and Piano” is a selection of pieces by 20th century composers, a disc recorded in 2008 by two Israeli artists – recorder-player Leora Vinik and pianist Liora Ziv-Li. The 20th century has seen renewed interest in early music and its performance practice, one result being the recorder’s reinstatement as a solo- and ensemble instrument, another being the creating of a new and varied modern repertoire of works for the instrument. “Modern Music for Recorder and Piano” presents works of varying styles from different countries in Europe, plus one Israeli work, the technical- and musical demands on each instrument being equally challenging.

Israeli-born recorder player Leora Vinik received a B.A. with honors in Music and Bible Studies from Tel Aviv University, continuing her studies in recorder with Marion Verbruggen (Holland) to graduate with an Artist’s Diploma in Performance. Vinik divides her time between solo performance, recording, instructing music students and teachers, tutoring adults in recorder ensembles and much work in the field of music education for children in Israel. She has also been involved in the writing of performance practice manuals and of guided listening texts to accompany the Youth Concert Series of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. In “Modern Music for Recorder and Piano” Vinik plays on a Moeck Rottenburgh model soprano recorder and a boxwood alto recorder made by Israeli recorder-builder Yoav Ran.

Pianist Liora Ziv-Li, born in Israel, graduated from the Tel Aviv Academy of Music (piano, harpsichord) proceeding to studies at the Royal College of Music (London). She is the recipient of a number of awards, winning prizes in international competitions. Ziv-Li’s professional engagements include performing with orchestras and recitals; she has played on radio and television in Israel and overseas.

Flautist Marta Klempner began her studies in Israel, receiving Bachelor and Masters degrees in Performance (modern flute and Baroque flute) and Musicology from Indiana University, Bloomington, continuing her studies at the Royal College of Music (London). Since returning to Israel, Klempner has played with orchestras and performed in chamber music concerts.

Hans Gal (1890-1987) was born near Vienna but fled to Britain in 1938, where he eventually took up a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh. His Three Intermezzi opus 103 (1974) are a set of mood pieces of transparent, delicate textures, a fine mix of contrapuntal- and harmonic interest, humor and gentle mood changes. Vinik and Ziv-Li’s reading of them is attentive and interesting in its fine detail, their playing in keeping with Gal’s unflagging sense of good taste. Hans Ulrich Staeps’ (1909-1988) Sonata in E flat major for Recorder and Piano strikes a very different note. This is the Austrian educator and performer’s first composition. Staeps’ work, somewhat reminiscent of Hindemith’s style, defies bar-lines and tonal stability and presents a feisty canvas of long, inventive melodic lines, jaunty rhythmical ideas and provocative textural motifs which, as in the sonata’s third movement, then transcend into lyrical, intimate moments. Ziv-Li and Vinik take on board the many challenging facets of this work, handling its technical challenges and tricky temperament with aplomb.

German conductor, flautist and baritone Hans-Martin Linde, (b.Germany, 1930) has spent much of his professional life teaching in the Music Academy of Basel; he, himself, is a virtuoso player on both recorder and flute. His Trio for Alto Recorder, Flute and Piano (1960) balances and juxtaposes the timbres of recorder, flute and piano in five short, sinewy movements. Joining Vinik and Ziv-Li is outstanding flautist Marta Klempner. Linde creates a fine blend of timbres from this blatantly unconventional scoring; the three artists’ thorough reading of the musical text, together with their accuracy and purposefulness, makes for high quality performance.

Peter Farago’s (b.1932) Hommage a Bela Bartok – Rondo for Soprano Recorder and Piano was composed in 1989. Farago, born in Germany, moved to Hungary with his family in 1935. Constructed from short, varied sections, this piece is peppered with Hungarian-style folk dances and songs, tempo changes, eastern European modes and asymmetrical rhythmic motifs. Ziv-Li and Vinik meet the technical and stylistic challenges of the piece, resulting in the use of energy and color that make for interesting listening.

One of the highlights of the disc is surely British composer John Graves’ (1916-1997) Divertimento, with the dedication “For Fiona”, for alto recorder and piano. Composed in 1964, this small gem, created in five short movements, boasts superb writing for both recorder and piano, opening with the Prelude with its vivacious onset, rapid harmonic changes and rhythmic displacements, then moving into the wistful, songful Air, sketched in autumnal hues and more securely anchored in stable tonality. The third movement – Festivo – suggesting a jolly country celebration complete with little dances, in which the recorder adds small comments, is charming, whereas, in the Soliloquy, the recorder adopts a pensive, soul-searching mood. The coquettish Finale ends the work with a dash of good humour. Vinik and Ziv-Li’s playing certainly does justice to the musical text.

And to the 21st century. Dr. Hagar Kadima’s (b.Israel, 1957) chamber works have been performed internationally in concerts and festivals. She is the founder of the Israel Women Composer’s forum and teaches in Tel Aviv. “Glimpse of a Question from a Distant Desert” (2007) ties in with the composer’s fascination for desert landscapes and is in keeping with the musical direction in which Kadima’s writing has been taking her over recent years. Clear in form, the work is built around a tonal centre – moving away to view it from afar and eventually returning to it; the score demands enormous dynamic change on the part of the recorder, certainly a tall order from an early instrument. Opening with a section wherein piano and recorder pace together, the piece takes the listener off into the measureless distance of the desert and of one’s mind. Ziv-Li and Vinik have read deeply into the layers of the piece, producing an impressive, thought-provoking and moving performance.

Vinik and Ziv-Li’s collaboration has produced a disc that will interest the music-loving public and recorder players in particular. The two artists’ working of each style and piece has been painstaking and profound. This is performance at its best.

The disc comes with a highly informative and detailed disc sleeve. Included in the box is a DVD created by Leora Vinik, beautifully filmed by Avny Manes (ARTV Communications Ltd., Tel Aviv) and edited by Orit Dembsky, in which five of the works on the disc are joined by other art forms. We are witness to artist Mirjam Walter’s painting of an abstract canvas to Vinik’s performance of Hans Ulrich Staeps’ Sonata in E flat major. Soothing blues and burnished reds prevail. Each movement begins with a short viewing of the written text; the visual play of both Vinik’s- and Walter’s hands is an interesting one. The opening scene for the Pastorale from Hans-Martin Linde’s Trio for Alto Recorder, Flute and Piano is an azure sky, soon to be alive with the movement and poetry of formation of storks and water.

Hagar Kadima’s Glimpse of a Question from a Distant Desert joins the hands of potter Talma Tamari, in which the mesmerizing spinning of the potter’s wheel is initially shown in grays and beiges, with some superimposed images of desert, birds and camels. Only at the end does the scene take on a brighter, pastel coloring.

The Air from John Graves’ Divertimento is the inspiration for a scene depicting the sound and movement of the sea, whereas the Soliloquy features dancer Shimrit Golan hazily and subtly moving in and out of a leafy background.

A collage of the people and inner life of Jerusalem’s Old City is viewed together with Peter Farago’s Hommage a Bela Bartok. Artistically photographed, the film shows the skyline, colors, the Jerusalem stone and the birds of the Old City depicted together with the vibrant activity and spiritual traditions of all three monotheistic faiths represented within its walls. This piece carries a significant message from Vinik.

The question of how connected or relevant the visual- and musical aspects in this DVD presentation are to each other is left to the viewer to answer. Do you focus on the visuals or is your ear busy with the sound? Do they become one multi-faceted art form or does each hold onto its identity? Much thought has been invested into these pieces and they definitely throw light on the many possibilities offered within the milieu of multi-media.

To order the

No comments: