"Whenever we think of violin and guitar music, Paganini comes to mind. But this disc gives us a whole array of pieces for this medium. The program notes do not confirm that the works are original for this medium, but if they are, then how did we manage to neglect them? I am sure quite a bit of research has gone into collecting this music.
Some of the music is from the Darmstadt serial school of the 1950s. it begins with the schizophrenic and unsettling music of the Italian violinist Bruno Bartolozzi and Austrian pianist Waldemar Bloch. then we have the more tonal and conservative music of Czech guitarist Jan Truhlar, the Hungarian ethnomusicologist Jeno Takacs, and the German guitarist-arranger Siegfried Behrend. The playing on both parts is strong and lyrical, especially in I from Bloch's Sonata, where there is melodic interplay between the two instruments.
The duo show great energy and rhythmic control in I from Divertimento, an homage to Bach. Not everyone can pull this off, but this duo has definitely found its niche"
- Lily Afshar, ARG Sept/Oct 1999
Introduction. “Twentieth-century classical music” is often associated with what seems to the untrained ear as jarring and un-musical compositions by composers such as Schoenberg (with his infamous ‘twelve-tone technique’). Still, modern compositions form part of the progressive development in mainstream classical music, and though they may seem alien to ears brought up on Mozart and Beethoven, are actually reflective of the present time that we live in.
Guitarist Matthew Gould and violinist Beth Ilana Schneider have come together as Duo 46 to record music written by Central European composers during the decade 1950 to 1960, a time of great turmoil for all who were involved in the Second World War and its devastating aftermath.
The theme for these pieces is reflective of the rampant paranoia and anti-government sentiments at that time. The inlay includes a long list of major world events in this period (“1951: South Korea invaded”; “Elizabeth II is crowned Queen of England”, “The Mickey Mouse Show premiers on TV”). Though this odd collection of sentiments may seem irrelevant to us today, it provides a reasonable insight into what was on the people’s minds as they went about their daily lifelihood, and the events that shaped and defined an era and gave birth to the schizophrenia behind these compositions.
The Music. Bartolozzi’s Serenata opens the disc with a disconcerting, eerie melody on the violin accompanied by a robust guitar. Dissonance and rhythmic tension pulls the piece into a string so taut it slices through the mind – hardly serene at all, yet it makes a definitive opening statement for this recording.
Behrend’s Spielmusik (1952) is somewhat more tonal, although strange combinations of notes do appear. The composer, being a prolific champion in modern guitar performance, noticeably gives the guitar centrestage in this five-movement work, with more showy fingerwork and knowledgeable integration with the violin part.
The other works on this recording are rather more palatable, though it is not until the last, Truhlar’s Zwei Kompositionen, that a melodic form finally overtakes the modern elements in the music. Guitar and violin blend to give some surprising and unusual acoustic effects in Bloch’s Sonate, and Reiter’s Sonatine in three movements is written in a pseudo-Baroque style. With the guitar giving a lute-like sound, one gets the impression of dances of the ancient French courts.
Because the pieces having nondescript titles like “Sonatine” and “Divertimento”, it is difficult to analyse these pieces in terms of programme, other than the fact that they were inspired by anti-government sentiment, as suggested by a short vivid article by David M. Williams (“Power, Perfection and Paranoia”) in the liner notes. These introduce the composers in general but give no indication of introducing the pieces in particular, which is rather unfortunate given that twentieth-century classical music is best interpreted bearing in mind the thoughts and turbulent emotions that went behind creating it.
Most of the music written here is a vehicle for the angst and emotion of the people living in that particular point in time, and the efforts of Gould and Schneider would be even better rewarded if the background to each piece is explained for the majority of the uninitiated.
Soo Kian Hing, The Flying Inkpot (Singapore)
by David Williams
Hey, daddy-o, there were wars. The "war to end all wars," then part two was even uglier and we thought the world was exhausted. Right. Our allies, the Commies, looked pretty cool when we needed 'em, but then this McCarthy Square decides they're evil and that they are everywhere. Freinds dropped dimes on friends, if you catch my drift, and I know that you do. J. Edgar Hoover had files on everyone including the latest dress patterns from Vogue. The Kefauver Commission tried to cut down the Mob in its prime, but most people thought Nixon was more of a crook and he wasn't even President yet! The enemy had to be rebuilt for the jive economic 'miracle' to continue, so we helped Germany and Japan rise from the ashes and prepared them to beat us up where it really counts, in the wallet.
Russia tested their own nuke right about the time the "shot heard 'round the world" left Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, then orbited the first Sputnik, the war was cold. Then Korea was hot, leftovers that the Red Chinese and Harry Truman fought over to a bloody stalemated stump. Lex Luther vs. Superman? Competition in everything from tractors to shoes to training spacemen, but bombs, missiles and other war toys seemed more important. Now that America ran the world, nobody wanted to be a second rate power and every kid wanted a coonskin cap. Sex was something only animals, teenagers, and minorities did, while out in the new animal farms of conformity called suburbs, a new kind of family, the nuclear kind was incubated. The male suburbanites had "interests" and "hobbies", not to mention jobs, but the women who had thought themselves liberated by the big war's need for them in the workplace were now going mad with boredom and taking more tranquilizers than babies got milk. While television spewed censored images of design for living, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and the King of Rock and Roll shook up the status quo. Blast off, daddy-o!
Cold war culture schizophrenic fallout. We didn't know what the government was doing, and they sure weren't going to tell us. Ike? Imagine a General as president and national father of a divided family with a military, industrial complex. Uncool. Freedom? To escape with Barbie to a drive-in, flip through a girly magazine, fly your saucer, or make the scene. Your big brother is still watching and No! we aren't there yet, so sit down, shut-p, and look out the window, or you won't get a mouseketeer hat.