‘Saltarello’ is every bit as inventive and beautiful as its predecessor, ‘D’amore’ (9/08), rendering time and geographical space irrelevant in its jumping – the word ‘saltarello’ derives from the Italian for ‘to jump’ – from place to place and piece to piece. The repertoire moves with sublime elegance from Irish folk music to the German and French Middle Ages, the English and Italian Baroque and thence, in the figures of Saariaho and Knox himself, to the present.
Bringing all this music seamlessly together are the remarkable sonic possibilities offered by the combination of cello and viola or viola d’amore. A fiddle and electronics are added for good measure but it’s the massive range and depth of beauty of just these two instruments playing together that is at the heart of the recording. In listening, for example, to Vivaldi’s Concerto RV393 reduced for viola d’amore and cello, one realises that absolutely no other instrument is necessary: two performers have the essence of the music under their fingertips. Knox’s lovely Fuga libre is a memorial piece for viola solo, making particularly impressive use of harmonics, while Saariaho’s powerful Vent nocturne for viola and electronics, split into two parts separated very effectively by Dowland’s Flow my teares is altogether darker. The disc ends as it began, with Irish folk music, confirming the nostalgic note of the whole and whisking us off once again into the ether. Certainly only performers with an utterly extraordinary musical empathy could convince the listener quite in this way.