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Enigma, works for solo viola - Dana Zemtsov

Enigma, works for solo viola - Dana Zemtsov

Channel Classics  CCS SA 35714

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Kreisler: Recitativo scherzo
Stravinsky: Elegy
Hindemith: Viola sonata, Op. 25 No. 1
Vieuxtemps: Capriccio "Hommage a Paganini"
Kugel: Sonata "Poeme"; Prelude "Ysaye"
Penderecki: Cadenza
Bach/Kodaly: Chromatic Fantasy

Dana Zemtsov, viola


Most things there are to say about this CD, I tried to reveal as best as I could through music. However, I must warn the listener; here one will scarsely find lyrical melodies and heartwarming beauty with which music is so often associated. Instead, there will be tales of war, perplexed wanderings through obscured labyrinths, intense cries of despair, sour tears of sorrow, maybe at places an ironic grinn.

In this collection of works, these very diverse pieces are bound by an atmospherical legacy that is codified by each composer in his own very individual language. The pieces included in this programme are written in an overwhelmingly sincere manner. Some pieces consist of such thick vital layers, that to start to decipher them is to set oneself a task for life. The more one digs into each piece the more the details seem to multiply and the more one has left to investigate.

Unlikely other stringed instruments the viola repertoire hasn’t been as thoroughly explored, and a big part is thus left quite “intact”. Many wonderful violists arose since the beginning of the 20th century, starting the quest and stimulating composers to write for viola. As we are in this searching phase a tradition in the repertoire hasn’t quite been established yet. This gives our generation the luxurious liberty to read and explore practically freshly new music from different centuries.

I am extremely thankful, proud and honoured to be able to present my first contribution to this quest; my first step into the course of a lifelong exploration of the enigma of the musical language.

Dana Zemtsov

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Review by Graham Williams - June 22, 2014

While talented young pianists, violinists and cellists are promoted on disc with predictable regularity, solo violists have been something of a rare breed (though recently this does appear to be changing) so the discovery of a player of the quality of Dana Zemtsov is a real find.

22 yr old Dana Zemtsov was born in Mexico City to a musical family. At the age of 5 she received her first music lessons from her grandmother and from her parents, who are both viola players and she is currently studying with the viola virtuoso Michael Kugel, two of whose compositions appear on this disc together with his transcriptions of works by Fritz Kreisler and JS Bach.
The programme she has chosen for this recital is a challenging one, as she herself admits in the liner notes, and certainly features works of a predominantly dark nature. For example, the Kreisler 'Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice' that is the first item on the disc is a dramatic and gritty piece far removed from his more familiar sugary Viennese salon items.

Stravinsky's 'Elegy for Solo Viola' – his only solo work for this instrument – was written in 1944 as a memorial to Alphonse Onnou the leader of the Pro Arte Quartet who had died in 1940. It is a sombre and austere piece that makes a moving impression in Zemtsov's nuanced performance.

Hindemith's Viola Sonatas are accepted as some of the the peaks of the viola repertoire and there are many fine recordings of them including those by the composer himself. Dana Zemtsov's powerful performance of the Sonata Op. 25 No. 1 is gripping in its intensity. The colour and range of expression that she elicits from her instrument is astonishing. The fourth movement of the Sonata, with Hindemith's notorious marking of 'Rasendes Zeitmass. Wild. Tonschönheit ist Nebensache' (Raging tempo. Wild. Beauty of tone is of a secondary consideration), sounds like a swarm of angry bees and is delivered at a hair-raising tempo. By contrast, she is equally capable of expressing the melancholic melodic sweetness of Capriccio 'Hommage àPaganini' in C minor by Henri Vieuxtemps, where her warm and expressive cantilena is beautifully conveyed by the recording.

Dana Zemtsov is not fazed by the considerable technical and interpretive challenges of the remainder of her eclectic programme that includes the 'Sonata-Poème' and 'Prelude-Ysaÿe' by her teacher Michael Kugel and Krzysztof Penderecki's 'Cadenza'. The final item on the disc is Zoltán Kodály's superb transcription of Bach's 'Chromatic Fantasia', here given a performance that demonstrates this artist's virtuosity and fine musicianship in equal measure.

It need hardly be said that both the production and engineering of this 5.0 DSD recording from Jared Sack is of the highest quality. The rich tonal quality of Zemtsov's instrument is enhanced by the fine acoustic of the Doopsgezinde Kerk, Deventer where the recording was made a year ago.

This is a remarkably successful first solo recital from an artist with a most promising future so if the programme on offer here appeals do not hesitate.

Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net

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Comment by St. Gregory - December 12, 2020 (1 of 1)

I disagree with the sonics rating of this recording. Why ruin a perfectly good recording, by having it sound like it was recorded in the batcave? Way too much echo, and sounds like it was miked from 20 feet away. I knew from the opening bars, that this was not the album for me.