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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Art of Carol Lieberman, Volume 2, Modern Violin, von Dohnanyi, Carter, Hovhaness, Piston, Messiaen

We celebrate nearly 50 years of recordings by the great violinist Carol Lieberman in a retrospective of her work, now with an Art of Carol Lieberman, Volume 2, Modern Violin (Centaur CRC 3702). Over the years she has excelled as an original instrument Baroque violinist and for the Modern repertoire as well. Volume 2 nicely addresses the latter with a wide ranging anthology that spans a broad swatch of musical avenues from von Donanyi to Elliott Carter by way of Hovhaness, Piston and Messiaen. The common thread is Ms. Lieberman's extraordinarily clarity and full-feeling readings, flowering rather gloriously without undue sentiment, an expression of human-kindness in music you might say.

The album opens with splendidly angular and somewhat exotic readings of von Dohnanyi's op.21 "Sonata for Violin and Piano" and the "Serenade for String Trio" op. 10. From there we jump to the extraordinarily declamatory "Riconoscenza (Per Goffredo Petrassi) for Solo Violin" from Elliot Carter. Never has Carter sounded more human, heroic yet somehow vulnerable like all of us can be. It is part of Lieberman's brilliance that she can give us the Modern World in all its multifarious givenness--the advanced yet intensely personal, the committed yet still searching, not entirely comfortable with or complacent about the new horizon ahead. Or at least that is what comes to me as I listen gladly.

From there we go to two works featuring violin and harpsichord (with Mark Kroll)--Hovhaness's brief three movement folkish, advanced Modern and songful presence on the "Duet for Harpsichord" and the workaday Modern terse eloquence of Walter Piston's "Sonatina for Violin and Harpsichord."

The high-water mark of it all is the concluding three movement excerpt of Messiaen's haunting "Quartet for the End of Time" featuring Carol at her best with Geoffrey Burleson on piano, Bruce Creditor on clarinet and David Finch on cello. I've heard a fair number of performances of this beautiful work but none quite as heartful and touching--and Carol's emotive stance on it is largely responsible for that, though everyone locks into the music with a great deal of both sadness and dash, and that somehow fits the magic of Messiaen's intentions quite well

It is a conclusion one does not listen to without a rare feeling of fitness. of an apt summing up of Carol Lieberman's nearly ethical consistency of aesthetic. A remarkable disc all around.

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