Herwig Zack

4 Strings Only

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4 Strings Only, a Herwig Zack album of solo violin works on the Avie label, combines an unusual juxtaposition of a Bach Solo Sonata No. 2 in A minor with the two solo suites of Ernest Bloch, the Sonata for solo violin of Paul Ben-Haim, and finally the Sequenza VIII of Luciano Berio. While Bach's solo sonatas and partitas certainly inform nearly every subsequent work for solo violin, and while Zack makes a somewhat circuitous argument for the connections between the works on his program, the Bach still seems somewhat out of place here. What's more, Zack's playing of the A minor Sonata is the least successful on the disc. The same muscular, angular, and intense playing that works so well for Bloch, Ben-Haim, and Berio is brought to the Bach with little change. The result may be too brazen and assertive for some listeners. The remainder of his program, though, is truly striking. The contrasts in tempo, texture, and color achieved are not only idiomatic for the composers' wishes, but indicative of Zack's well-earned reputation. The sometimes daunting technical demands are tossed off with ease. Zack takes risks from start to finish. Yes, there may be a note here or there that is not perfectly in tune, or that does not speak with perfect clarity, but the energy and vitality that Zack brings to Bloch, Berio, and Ben-Haim more than sufficiently compensate.

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