Encounters - Joaquín Riquelme, Enrique Bagaría
Eudora Records EUD-SACD-2102
Classical - Chamber
Brahms: Sonata in F minor, Op. 120/1
Hindemith: Viola and piano sonata, Op.11/4
Schumann: Adagio und Allegro, Op. 70
Joaquín Riquelme (viola)
Enrique Bagaría (piano)
Berlin Philharmonic member Joaquín Riquelme and pianist Enrique Bagaría explore a century of viola and piano masterpieces, including spellbinding performances of Brahms’ Sonata op. 120/1 and Hindemith’s Sonata op. 11/4. Schumann’s lyrical and brilliant Adagio and Allegro op. 70 and Enescu’s virtuoso Concertstück complete this masterly performed recording.
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - March 16, 2021
Despite talk about the demise of Super Audio, notably in its physical form, it is heartening to note that several labels continue to cater to the high-resolution niche market. Eudora is such a label, and its mastermind, Gonzalo Noqué, leaves no stone unturned to arrive at the ultimate result for the ‘beau monde’ with the right equipment to savour it to the fullest extent. And if the musicians are of the same standard, what more can we wish for than to enjoy the beauty of ‘musical encounters’, such as the ones here on offer.
The binding element is the viola, ‘the intellectual of the (string) family” (William Primrose), though often and unjustly seen as the unobtrusive instrument somewhere in the middle of an orchestra, filling in the harmonies between the ‘frivolous’ violins and the ‘serious’ cellos. Taken out of context (so to speak) we discover that this noble instrument, having some of the characteristics of either side, will succeed in pleasing any intellectual music lover because of its expressive sonority and glowing warm sound.
Brahms liked the viola and he arranged his two sonatas for clarinet and piano for viola, of which Joaquín Riquelme (Berlin Philharmonic) opens the programme with Op. 120 No. 1. His amazing account does not only prove Primrose’s view of the instrument, but it also renders full justice to the sadness Brahms must have felt at the end of his life and the disappearance of his closest friends.
Whilst Tabea Zimmermann Sonatas for Viola & Piano, Vol 2 - Zimmermann / Gerstein#, with her delicate and at times so grippingly sorrowful account, continues to be a prime choice, Riquelme enhances the various moods with a sturdier ‘we shall overcome’ character in the final movement, impressively supported by his partner, Enrique Bagaría, at the concert grand. In either case, I prefer the viola over the original clarinet version.
When virtuosity was of overriding importance for soloists of name and fame, the viola was not seen as a suitable instrument and as a result few composers wrote concertante or even chamber works for it. Fortunately, this has changed for the better ever since other, nobler qualities of the instrument gained wide acceptance. Nonetheless, Paul Hindemith, with his beautifully crafted Sonata Op. 11/4 proved the ‘soloists of name and fame’ wrong. Apart from its melodious impressionism, it expertly exploits the virtuoso possibilities, thus taking “the viola’s expressive language into a new dimension”, as demonstrated so gorgeously by Joaquin Riquelme.
Robert Schumann’s Adagio und Alegro, initially composed for horn and piano, will not fail to please the listener either, and certainly not in Riquelme’s considered reading, as does George Enescu’s Conzertstück, commissioned by Gabriel Fauré for the annual alto contest of the Paris Conservatorium, and hence full of lyrical hurdles, jumped by Joaquín Riquelme with ease and enthusiasm to conclude an hour of excellent and intellectual viola music.
Blangy-le-Châteay, Normandy, France.
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