Balázs Máté / Eva Posvanecz

Franz Danzi: 4 Duos for Viola & Cello

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The Hungaroton label continues to issue historical-instrument recordings covering worthwhile and rarely heard Classical-era repertory. These duos by Franz Danzi, composed around 1800, might be expected to look backward to the small-group occasional music of the eighteenth century, or at least to the duos and trios of Haydn and Mozart. Instead, they are progressive pieces with spacious opening movements, considerable challenges for the instrumental movements, and central movements with an expressive dimension that goes beyond Classical conventions. The booklet (in English, French, German, and Hungarian) examines in some detail the relationship between Carl Maria von Weber and Danzi, who was his teacher, and you can really hear the musical connections. Sample the central movement of the Duo No. 2 in G minor for viola and cello, Op. 9, a variation set in the older manner, but with a nocturne mood and some wonderful writing for the cello, which begins accompanying the sparse melody with pizzicati and gradually fills out the texture. The craftsmanship of the music, which uses voicing very effectively to vary what could have been a monotonous texture, is evident throughout. The reader does not learn exactly what makes the instruments played "period instruments"; many violas and cellos are old, and the instruments seem to use modern strings and bows. The density of the music calls for first-rank chamber players. The duo of violinst Éva Posvanecz and cellist Balázs Máté don't consistently deliver spot-on intonation, but they are plainly intrigued by the music, and they never bog down in its long lines. Probably of most interest for fans of the Romantic forerunners, but an intriguing find indeed for that group.

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