The Strad Issue: January 2011
Description: Faithfully achieved accounts of music by a master miniaturist
Musicians: Maurizio Barbetti (viola)
Composer: Kurtág

Signs, Games and Messages is a continuing series of isolated movements written during the past half century – and continually revised – by that post-Webernian miniaturist György Kurtág (b.1926). None of the 28 tracks on this CD surpasses the five-minute mark, and most are roughly around a minute in length. This is music that has to grow on you (at least it had to in my case), and at best one or two movements at a time. Useful as it is to have the whole series of 24 pieces collected (together with a further handful of isolated movements), one should resist any urge to go on to the next piece, allowing time for each one to work its magic.

Maurizio Barbetti has quite a pedigree in the performance of new music, having studied with Aldo Bennici and Irvine Arditti. (His impressive resumé also intriguingly mentions the premiere of a viola concerto by Ennio Morricone.) The booklet notes don’t mention whether Kurtág was present at the recording sessions, but even that notoriously hard-to-please composer should have been happy with Barbetti’s playing, faithfully and convincingly realising, as it does, every instruction in scores that can include more words than notes. The reverberant recording takes some getting used to, but is fine once you do.

Carlos María Solare