BETSY JOLAS (b.1926): Viola and Piano: 4 Duos, Quoth the raven, Ruht wohl, Épisode sixième for Solo Viola, Solo Piano: Pièce, Pièce pour Saint-Germain, B for Sonata.
Catalogue Number: 02O067
Label: Editions Hortus
Description: Jolas' æsthetic is a strikingly individual one, and very difficult to define. The music is strongly characterful with a sense of forward-moving dramaturgy, but abstract, not programmatic; harmonically rich and generous, but very seldom suggesting tonal relationships (and occasionally, as in 'Ruht wohl' venturing into microtonal territory); technically demanding, but avoiding displays of gratuitous virtuosity. The 1973 Piano Sonata is an enigmatic work, with passages of rippling figuration that the composer suggested were related to gamelan music, alongside filigree tracery of no discernible tonal center, robust, angular interjections and sonorous 'gong-strokes'. The music fascinates, but refuses to explain itself. The viola and piano Duos are more conventionally character-pieces, in strikingly contrasting moods, which is also true of the three short sections of the funereal 'Quoth the Raven', with its basso profondissimo clusters and eerie melodic lines. The viola, with its ability to project plangent tenderness and hoarse-voiced agitation, capricious activity or long-breathed calm, was a favorite instrument f the composer, and the various pieces here, especially the technically formidable Épisode sixième, run the full gamut of the instrument's expressive possibilities. Laurent Camatte (viola), Géraldine Dutroncy (piano).