TELEMANN; WEBER; BAKSA; BRUCH Viola Concertos
Few contemporary composers are harder to pin down than Andreas Baksa (1950 2016). Too easily confused with the American composer Robert Baksa (b1938), he frustrates all but the most determined of Googlers. And, so far as nationality is concerned, he eschews categorisation. Born in the area of Romania bordering Hungary, he studied with Bartók and played violin in the opera orchestra of Klausenberg, then in East Germany, before escaping to Austria in the 1970s. So it’s not surprising that his music, by turns rhythmically muscular and hauntingly languid, reflects a variety of cultures.
This is evident not least in Viola Pannonica, the main draw on this programme from the Austrian viola player Herbert Kefer. Premiered at the Weinklang Festival in Germany in 2010, this charts a musical journey through the ancient Roman province of Pannonia, a territory in central Europe spread over parts of present-day Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. As such it is predictably bitty, perhaps the only piece to juxtapose an ironic Viennese waltz with soulful Croatian song. But what it lacks in cohesion it makes up in individual moments: the headstrong opening ‘Hungarian’ theme; its forays into Romanian gypsy music. It certainly fires up Kefer and the Vorarlberg SO under Martin Kerschbaum, who enjoy its rhythmic ingenuity; in their hands the final csárdás breathes fire.
And all credit to Kefer for devising a programme as thematically interlinked as it is diverse. Weber’s Andante and Rondo ungarese, Op 35, similarly draws on Hungarian colouring, mostly through the rhythms of the solo line and accompaniment, while Telemann’s Viola Concerto in G, like Viola Pannonica, is in essence a collection of character pieces. Both showcase Kefer’s virtuosity and poise, but it’s in the disc’s final offering – Bruch’s elegiac Romance in F, Op 85 – that Kefer’s lustrous tone and capacity for introspection come into their own.