The Strad Issue: August 2015
Description: Vivaldi provides the link for a collection showcasing old and new styles
Musicians: Pekka Kuusisto (violin) Artur Rozmyslowicz (viola) Extra Sounds Ensemble/Alicja Ššmietana (violin)
Composer: Corelli, Kreisler, Schnittke, Vivaldi

Alicja Ššmietana has inspired her Extra Sounds Ensemble to fashion a disc that has a resounding joie de vivre. Pekka Kuusisto is equally brilliant as her partner, delivering effortlessly stylish playing with a striking purity that is simply radiant. Phrasing is tastefully honed, ensemble absolutely exact, with a sensitive blending of tone that is reflected in the clear recording.

Ššmietana’s theme of ‘metamorphoses’ centres on the evolving nature of music via arrangement or pastiche, and is explored through a judiciously chosen mixture of Baroque and 20th-century works. Vivaldi provides a further leitmotif, the disc featuring not only his variations

on ‘La follia’ but also Kreisler’s concerto paying homage to the Red Priest. In the latter work, the Andante doloroso is particularly expressive, its exquisite melodic line projected with great simplicity. The final item is a rhythmically charged and dynamic account of the A minor Double Concerto from Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico.

Yet perhaps Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style is the music that lingers longest after the party has finished. The Russian composer’s ingenious and witty transformation of 18th-century idioms has a captivating charm, epitomised by the strongly rustic nuances of the opening Pastorale. The fourth-movement Fugue is clever and brilliant, well served by Ššmietana’s transparent arrangement. Here the ensemble

is flawless and the solo lines effortlessly golden.

Joanne Talbot