Contemporary viola works come alive in the hands of a highly perceptive player

The Strad Issue: July 2019

Description: Contemporary viola works come alive in the hands of a highly perceptive player

Musicians: Rafaell Altino (viola)

Works: RUDERS Autumn Collection KOPPEL For Viola ROSING-SCHOW #ViolaSounds FUNDAL Varidrome EICHBERG Recitare SØRENSEN Sarabande

Catalogue Number:  DACAPO 8.226588

All the music included in this CD was written within the past few years for Rafaell Altino, Brazilian-born principal violist of the Odense Symphony Orchestra. Collectively they constitute a fascinating conspectus of contemporary Danish compositions for the viola, and Altino reveals himself as a perceptive interpreter who lays out the music in front of the listener with great clarity, making light of writing that occasionally makes unusual requirements but is firmly anchored in a strong sense of sound.

It starts with a bang: the Overture from Autumn Collection reveals Poul Ruders – arguably the dean of Danish music – to write most effectively for the instrument, with sonorous double-stopping, idiomatic harmonics and a haunting finale requiring what sounds like a heavy practice mute. Anders Koppel’s For Viola intriguingly combines neo-Baroque gestures with naughty inflexions that recall the composer’s past as a rock musician. The tonal explorations of Niels Rosing-Schow’s trendily titled #ViolaSounds run the gamut from percussive pizzicatos to hushed flautatos but seem to stop at that, while those that make up Karsten Fundal’s Varidrome contrive to present an eerie sound world with their unconventional use of harmonics combined with stopped notes, col legno effects and dramatic tremolo effusions. 

Søren Nils Eichberg’s Recitare evinces epic quality, its tense double-stopping launching an exciting narrative. Inevitably, Bent Sørensen’s Sarabande recalls the music of Bach (indeed, two recurring broken chords are almost a quote from the relevant movement in the G major Suite) and radiates a comparable sense of inner peace, successfully winding down the recital. I don’t quite know what DXD – or ‘Digital eXtreme Definition’ – means, but the sound quality is amazingly lifelike, faithfully reproducing every nuance in Altino’s sophisticated playing.