Karl Kohn

Cantilena II, for violin & marimba

    Description by Joseph Stevenson

    Although the combination of violin and marimba is one that almost naturally leads to a coloristic approach, the Vienna-born (in 1926) and American-educated (Harvard) composer Karl Kohn de-emphasized element of dramatic contrast in this work in favor of seeking lyricism.

    Kohn says that his approach in developing his style has been to use the full possibilities of the chromatic scale but emphasizing its diatonic notes sufficiently to retain tonality. The result, at least as exemplified by this work, is attractive music with an earnest feeling. It has some harmonic similarity with expressionism (the immediate precursor to atonality) but without going down the road to the Angst that typified its emotional content.

    There is some sense of yearning in the gently unfolding lines. Kohn says that he attempted to write in the "most idiomatic language" for both instruments. This means the violin is lyrical and soaring, with expressive double stops, while the marimba is also lyrical, with sustained rolled chords.

    Although there are virtuosic moments that surprise in their momentary vehemence, it is the calm blend of the two instruments that remains the dominant impression of the music. The work treats the then highly-unusual combination of violin and marimba in an almost matter-of-fact manner, in contrast to many other pieces in this particularly duet's repertory, which seem to want to make a particular point of the instrumentation

    It would make a nice reposeful moment in any marimba-violin program.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    1997 GM Recordings 2048