Typically impassioned, committed performances distinguish Kim Kashkashian’s New Series recording of music for viola by three great Hungarian composers. Kashkashian’s intense focus, superb craftsmanship and explosive virtuosity are brought to bear on Béla Bartók’s final work, on one of György Kurtág’s early pieces, and on an important new work written especially for her by Peter Eötvös.
Interconnections between the composers and the interpreter are many. Something akin to a line of transmission runs from Bartók to Eötvös via Kurtág. Kurtág has famously said that his “mother tongue is Bartók”, and his Movement for Viola and Orchestra was directly influenced by Bartók’s Violin Concerto and Concerto for Orchestra. Peter Eötvös was born, like Bartók, in Transylvania, befriended Kurtág in Budapest, and his musical development was decisively influenced by the work of both composers. “György Kurtág’s music”, Eötvös has noted, “is deeply rooted in European tradition. The certainty and glowing intensity of his works remind me of Van Gogh and Dostoyevsky. The increasing success of his music comes on the one hand from the fact that his powerful, subjective ability to express himself cannot be pigeonholed in any of the familiar stylistic movements, and on the other hand, from the fact that his music has an unusually vital relationship to the living and the dead.” A similar claim might well be made for the musics of Eötvös himself and Bartók, in which innovation and respect for the weight of tradition are keenly balanced.
Kashkashian, who has worked closely with Kurtág, was instrumental in bringing his music to the New Series and made the premiere recording of his revised six-part cycle “Jelek” (ECM New Series 1508). She has also worked under the baton of Eötvös and has, furthermore, been playing the Bartók Viola Concerto for three decades now. In preparation for the current project she went back to some of Bartók’s own sources, “listening to a lot of the Hungarian folk music he collected to study the articulation of melody, rhythm, phrasing.” (ECM Records)