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Mario Brunello & Gidon Kremer - Searching for Ludwig - BBC Music Magazine

The ever-enterprising Gidon Kremer has made a feature of mixing contemporary with the ‘classics’ throughout his distinguished career. In this ingenious programme, the relationship between the various pieces is more overt than implied. The title of Léo Ferré’s Muss es sein? Es muss sein! (Must it be? It Must Be!) refers directly to the principal motifs of the finale of Beethoven’s last quartet, No. 16. Here the original scoring of this emphatic six-minuter for symphony orchestra, chorus and speaker has been arranged by Valter Sivilotti for solo cello (Mario Brunello), strings and percussion, with Ferré’s own recording of the at times explosive recitation mixed in. If in Beethoven’s original a resolution of sorts is found, Ferré obsesses pointedly on the archetype itself.

Giovanni Sollima’s Note Sconte (Hidden Notes) is a suite – originally for cello ensemble, but here arranged for string orchestra – which draws hypnotically upon thematic fragments found among Beethoven’s unused sketches. The result shares a certain familial resemblance to the neo-classical vibe of Karl Jenkins’s Palladio.

Listening to the two string quartet transcriptions brought to mind the recordings by Kremer’s friend and mentor, Leonard Bernstein, with the Vienna Philharmonic (on DG). Yet whereas Bernstein embraced the music’s enhanced idiom with (literally) open arms, passionately embracing its full sonic potential, Brunello (No. 16) and Kremer (No. 14) create a sense of introspective awe, closer to the near-suffocating intimacy of the quartet originals. Some might feel the inevitable tonal cushioning and enhanced sonic amplitude of, say, the explosive middle section of Op. 135’s vivace second movement, is a semantic gear-change too far. Yet if you can accept the basic convention, these are performances of scorching insight and stature.

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BBC Music Magazine
01 December 2020