James Ehnes

Bartók: Chamber Works for Violin, Vol. 3

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Canadian violinist James Ehnes, one of the more saleable soloists in classical music at the moment, gets top billing on this collection of little Bartók works. But only in the little Sonatina, BB 102a, a transcription of a piano work, is he really featured; in the other works he's an equal partner in an ensemble. The oddity here is the collection of 44 Duos, BB 104, which Bartók wrote as a collection of student pieces in 1931. Bartók probably did not intend them as a single work, which makes the rather lofty motives imputed to them by annotator Paul Griffiths (he even suggests that the multi-ethnic character of the music, a Bartók characteristic since the beginning, might have been a warning against rising fascism), a bit unlikely. They are of a piece with Bartók's other major pedagogical work, the Mikrokosmos for piano, and the set of 44 has no real overall shape; hearing them all together is a bit much. That said, they're consistently interesting, each exploring a certain scale or folk rhythm, and Ehnes and Amy Schwarz Moretti treat them straightforwardly and intelligently. The other major work on the program is the trio Contrasts, BB 116, composed in 1938 for clarinetist Benny Goodman but containing just a hint of jazz that is nicely teased out by clarinetist Michael Collins. There are many other recordings of this work, and the whole is hardly an essential Bartók album, but those interested in the 44 Duos as a reference item will find a strong performance here.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Contrasts, for violin, clarinet & paino, BB 116
1 5:05
2 4:26
3 6:41
Sonatina, BB 102a
4 1:30
5 0:40
6 2:07
44 Duos, for 2 violins, BB 104
7 0:59
8 0:41
9 1:01
10 0:53
11 0:58
12 0:56
13 0:46
14 0:57
15 0:45
16 1:04
17 1:16
18 0:55
19 1:30
20 0:56
21 1:03
22 0:59
23 0:46
24 0:45
25 1:07
26 1:28
27 2:07
28 0:41
29 1:20
30 0:45
31 0:57
32 0:30
33 0:33
34 2:18
35 0:43
36 0:51
37 0:41
38 0:43
39 1:31
40 0:57
41 1:03
42 0:55
43 1:05
44 2:40
45 0:42
46 0:49
47 0:49
48 0:51
49 1:16
50 1:13
51 1:53
blue highlight denotes track pick