Barbara Lüneburg

The Refined Ear

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The title The Refined Ear is a curious choice for this album by violinist/violist Barbara Lüneburg. The choice of title goes essentially unexplained in the liner notes, but it does not hint at what most casual listeners of classical music might expect. The works for solo violin and viola by composers Georg Friedrich Haas, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Manfred Stahnke are sound explorations in the truest sense of the term. In their compositions, the refinement of which the title refers is in detecting minute, subtle, and evanescent nuances in technique and, in particular, various divisions of the octave. Haas, for example, uses quarter tones and in some instances sixth tones to create a wonderfully broad palate. Add to this exceptionally high demands for extended technique and the result is a set of pieces that has the potential to sound like little more than noise. Fortunately for listeners, Lüneburg herself has an obviously exceptionally refined ear and uses it to deliver performances every bit as detailed and nuanced as the scores from which she plays. With such minute divisions of the octave occurring through the music, anything but the most precise intonation would render the recording unlistenable, but Lüneburg has an amazing capacity for purity of sound and integrity of pitch even in the extreme registers of the violin and viola.

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