For some late twentieth century Russian composers, composing for the viola came to represent the same type of "bad luck" that beginning a tenth symphony did generations earlier. It's no surprise, really, that such a superstition would arise; Schnittke suffered the first of what was to be a series of fatally debilitating strokes just after completing his Viola Concerto and Shostakovich died very shortly after finishing his Viola Sonata. Both works have a disproportionately dark, angst-ridden character that suits the viola's deep, guttural tone perfectly. Capturing the range of intense emotions written into both of these works is a challenge made all the more difficult by the lofty technical demands they each place on violists. In his second album release, violist Antoine Tamestit proves that he is more than up to both tasks. The tone he produces from his Stradivarius viola (the first viola Stradivarius produced, actually) is remarkably clear and penetrating, without the slightest hint of tightness in the instrument across its entire range. His technique is pristine, and even the most demanding of extended techniques called for (in particular by Schnittke) are executed with a sense of complete ease. This allows Tamestit to focus on the greatest challenge in these two cornerstones of the viola repertoire: conveying their emotional, musical message. Here again, Tamestit seems completely at home, whether demonstrating the brutal angst of Schnittke or the occasional, surprising joviality of Shostakovich. Overall sound quality of the album is clear, warm, and intimate.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell
|Sonata for viola & piano in C major, Op. 147|