Maria Bachmann Kiss On Wood
Maria Bachmann's second Catalyst recital is even more ambitious than her first (''Fratres'', 12/93) and yet it exhibits the same warm, expressive tone, easy virtuosity and winning musicianship. True, parts of James MacMillan's Kiss on Wood of 1994—a strong, somewhat Spartan dialogue that becomes progressively more serene—find Bachmann having occasional trouble sustaining the line (or so it sounds), but the music's tense character is very well captured and the players' timing seems immaculate. Total contrast is afforded by William Bolcom's Second Sonata (1938), a winsome scrapbook of a piece, alternating dreams and brutality (the movement titles tell the tale) and with a finale ''In Memory of Joe Venuti'' that wouldn't be out of place on BBC Radio 3's ''Jazz Record Requests''. Here Bachmann weaves a cool, Grappelli-style line, whereas her sensitive handling of Copland's smokey Nocturne (1928)—so memorably recorded years ago by Louis Kaufman—makes a strong case for an atmospheric morceau other violinists might do well to investigate.
Schnittke of course keeps both players on their toes: his largely playful First Sonata (1963) flirts with atonalism (''a tonal world with atonal highways'', to quote the composer himself) and turns grandly solemn for a Largo that recalls the parallel movement in Shostakovich's Second Piano Trio. Then there is Paul Dresher, whose transcontinental eclecticism makes for an interesting marriage between Western and south-east Asian musical styles.