THE STRAD RECOMMENDS
The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Angela Chun, Jennifer Chun (violin)
Considering the dazzling range of techniques and effects unleashed by Bartók elsewhere in his violin writing, the 44 Duos remain steadfastly true to their intentions as elementary teaching material. Pizzicato is employed sparingly, while double-stopping almost invariably features an open string as a drone. At least the composer’s trademark ‘snap pizzicato’ makes an appearance in no.42.
Angela and Jennifer Chun take a traditional viewpoint, imbuing the music with an espressivo warmth and sensitivity that is consistently beguiling, enhanced by a gently cushioned yet detailed sound picture. In changing the traditional order they also make us listen to the series with fresh ears. Careful matching of keys and contrasts of mood result in some particularly felicitous selections, such as offsetting the exhilarating pizzazz of no.35 (‘Ruthenian Kolomeika’) against the solid rhythmic interplay of no.30 (‘New Year’s Song 1’) and the hauntingly introspective no.8 (‘Slovak Song’). They are at their most compelling in the slower numbers, as witness their deeply felt rendering of the ‘Ruthenian Song’ (no.10), although they impart an affectionate drive and energy to such exuberant numbers as ‘Bagpipes’ (no.36).
For a startlingly authentic reading that takes no prisoners, András Keller and János Pilz (ECM) remain unsurpassed, yet the Westernised interpretative allure of the Chun sisters is undeniably persuasive.