The Strad Issue: January 2012
Description: Three rare works for viola and orchestra receive elegant performances
Musicians: Hartmut Rohde (viola) Philharmonie Baden-Baden/Pavel Baleff
Composer: Forsyth, Martinu Bruch

Although two of them don’t sound like it at all, these three pieces were all written in the 20th century. Cecil Forsyth’s concerto, premiered at the 1903 Proms, is a most melodious piece, perfectly tailored for the viola – down to an idiomatic cadenza – and astutely orchestrated, as could be expected from the author of an orchestration treatise that is still in use. Bruch’s Romanze dates from 1911 but its Romantic language harks back to several decades earlier. Martinursquo;s Ballade is much later in composition date (1972), but it too cultivates a relatively traditional, neo-Classical language, albeit one spiced up by an unorthodox orchestration: woodwinds, harp, harpsichord, timpani and percussion.

Hartmut Rohde, viola professor at Berlin’s Universität der Künste, is an eloquent advocate for all three composers, drawing a fine, elegant line from his 1899 Giuseppe Fiorini viola. His aristocratic style is free from expressive excesses but never wants in intensity, as his very first, cadenza-like entry in the Forsyth immediately demonstrates. The recording quality is unobtrusively excellent, and manages to balance even Martinursquo;s improbable orchestration most effectively.

Carlos María Solare