Duo Virtuoso II: Works for Violin & Cello
Aside from Kodaly’s Duo for violin and cello, Mozart’s two duos for violin and viola and the ubiquitous Handel-Halvorsen Passacaglia for either configuration, there is surprisingly little music of much distinction for two string instruments. Nevertheless, the genre continues to be actively carried on by superstars like Julia Fischer and Daniel Müller-Schott and by less celebrated collaborators with similar chops and different charms; in many cases, it seems as if the music is being made for more personal reasons and the performances accordingly embrace a more intimate point of view.
In the case of the Elaris Duo, based at Georgia Southern College 200 miles south-east of Atlanta, it’s definitely the warm human touch informed by virtuosity. And in doing so, amid their programme of more familiar music by Ravel and Erwin Schulhoff, Larisa and Steven Elisha make a strong case for Arthur Honegger’s Sonatine as the one true gem on the disc.
Written in 1932 and dedicated to Albert Neuburger, the man who would become his publisher as the head of Salabert, Honegger’s music is wise, witty (including references to Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre and Ravel’s own Sonata for violin and cello) and affectionate. The Andante middle movement is briefly haunted by prayerful premonitions of darkness and the brilliant Allegro third movement, with its two monster cadenzas, rivals Handel-Halvorsen as an encore piece.
If the Elarises are not quite up to the standard set by Josef Suk and André Navarra in their incomparable 1967 recording, they confirm that this is music that demands to be heard.