CD REVIEW: Biber, Bartók, Berio & Bach/Liza Ferschtman

BIBER Passacaglia ‘Guardian Angel’
BARTÓK Sonata for solo violin
BERIO Sequenza VIII
BACH Partita in D minor, BWV 1004
Liza Ferschtman (violin)
Challenge Classics CC72635

Rating: *****

ferschtman cd cover

You’d be forgiven for thinking there was more than one violinist playing on this hugely accomplished new all-solo-violin disc from Dutch player Liza Ferschtman. She finds sounds and interpretative insights so contrasting across her four startlingly diverse pieces that you’d swear she wasn’t alone.

What unites her performances, though, is utter conviction – that, and an arrestingly fresh, spontaneous approach to the music that makes it feel newly minted. In her booklet introduction, Ferschtman describes her recital as ‘a battle’ – between her and the performing demands of the music, and between her listeners and the contrasting demands of taking on and assimilating the admittedly challenging repertoire. Yes, it’s not always an easy listen, but Ferschtman’s incisive performances are never less than compelling.

She begins with an account of Biber’s ‘Guardian Angel’ Passacaglia from the Mystery Sonatas that’s disarmingly direct, and beautifully eloquent in its raw, vibrato-less playing – and she manages to find an endearing eloquence in the seemingly endless repetitions of the music’s falling four-note motif. She attacks the Bartók Solo Sonata with a shattering intensity, though, with a fulsome, vibrato-laden sound and towering multi-stopped chords. It’s a high-voltage account, crackling with energy, yet she’s fully in control, finding beautifully nuanced light and shade even within the soaring passions, and delineating the Fuga’s intertwining lines expertly.

There’s almost no time to admire her immaculate technique in a blistering account of the Berio Sequenza VIII, nor to admire the pinpoint precision of her flurries of notes, so overawing is the sheer power of her performance. The dances in her closing Bach Second Partita, though, trip wittily and stylishly (although the dotted rhythms in her sprightly, somewhat sinister Courante are clipped to within an inch of their lives), but there’s something about her assertive performance that dares you to turn your attention elsewhere. Hers might not be the most sumptuously beautiful performance of the famous D minor Chaconne, but she has a superb vision of the piece’s growing tensions and plays with such freedom that it’s as if she were making up the variations up on the spot.

It’s a remarkable disc, profound in its insights and searing in its sincerity.

Cremona Mondomusica - Sept 30th - Oct 1st 2016

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