Reflecting Béla Bartók's avid interest in Hungarian folk music, the 44 Duos for two violins are inventive arrangements of indigenous melodies, published in four books that cover many regional styles and popular forms. While brief and to the point -- most are under two minutes' duration -- these songs and dances still present special problems of coordination, technique, and expression that are unique to the art of duet playing, particularly for such spare instrumentation as two violins. Violinists Angela and Jennifer Chun share an approach that makes their 2010 release of these pieces appear intelligently planned and stylistically unified, though their vivid string sonorities and spontaneous exchanges make the music feel colorful and engaging, and far from an exercise. Compared to some of the large-scale masterpieces Bartók wrote at the same time, such as the String Quartet No. 5 and the Piano Concerto No. 2, the 44 Duos are quite modest and unassuming, but they are significant because they represent Bartók's innovative work in the field of ethnomusicology and are somewhat more important in his oeuvre than they may appear. Harmonia Mundi's sound is credibly present and almost palpable, preserving enough grittiness in the string tone to make it feel close-up and natural.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|44 Violin duos, Sz. 98|