Ascent (Matthew Lipman & Henry Kramer)
Another chipping from Shostakovich’s workbench here receives its first recording, in the shape of an Impromptu almost certainly composed for the viola player of the Glazunov Quartet but only discovered in 2017 in the collection of the Beethoven Quartet’s Vadim Borisovsky. Composed in May 1931, in the middle of work on the first act of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, its gentle lyricism, topped off by a startlingly brief Allegro, has the sketchy feel of the piano Preludes and parts of the First Piano Concerto from the years immediately following. The opus number was eventually assigned to Shostakovich’s film score to The Counterplan.
Anyone who invests in Matthew Lipman’s disc for this tasty two-minute morsel alone will find plenty more treats in store. York Bowen’s Phantasy has all his signature post-Romantic sweep, underpinned by solid craftsmanship. The Brazilian-American composer Clarice Assad contributes two sensitive and engaging pieces in memory of the viola player’s mother. Every one of Schumann’s four Märchenbilder is a treasure, the last being perhaps especially touching, conveying as it does the fragility of a lullaby to a child perhaps longed for but never actually brought into the world. Garth Knox’s solo Fuga libre holds the attention by virtue of motivic resourcefulness allied to textural imagination. Finally the Waxman Carmen Fantasia, familiar as virtuoso violin fodder but recorded here for the first time on the viola, gives Lipman the chance to indulge his entertainer skills to the full.
Throughout the recital Lipman’s playing is warm-toned and expressive, as well as agile and focused, and Henry Kramer provides exemplary flexible partnership. The instruments are ideally balanced in a clear yet glowing acoustic. In short: an eminently collectable disc.