This is an invitation: an invitation to join me in an adventure. It would normally take place in the concert hall, because the combination of pieces I’m presenting to you here is not a typical programme for a CD. It’s an overwhelming recital that demands a great deal not only from me as the musician, but also from you as the audience. When I play this recital in a concert setting, which I’ve done on many occasions, I always find it to be a battle, where I’m reaching for my own limits and for the audience’s limits. But this is a constructive battle. The battle is the pathway and at the end of it we’re in a better place. From the stage, I can take the audience by the hand as stunning beauty alternates with uncomfortable and what can even be almost ugly sounds. But all of this is much harder on a CD, where it’s so easy to press the ‘forward’ button on the CD player…
However, these are exactly the pieces I wanted to record and I’m grateful to Challenge Records for offering me the opportunity. This is a highly personal programme, and not just because I’m entirely on my own, with no pianist or orchestra. That was also the case on my previous disc, presenting violin solo music by Ysaÿe and Bach, but here the feeling is even stronger. It’s a programme of contradictions: the ostensible simplicity of Biber and Bach contrasting with the complexity of Bartók and Berio. It’s emotional but at the same time highly cerebral. In these contradictions I recognize myself. I don’t consider myself to be a violinist for whom virtuosity is the greatest aim; that is not why I became a violinist. But yet I’ve chosen a solo programme here. That is contradictory, but what we’re dealing with is greater music and not just greater virtuosity. This is my musical autograph.
Bach’s Chaconne is the focal point, to which the works of Bartok and Berio make strong references , making it the core of this programme. Biber’s Passacaglia provides focus, with its persistent repeated cadence of the four falling notes. This pulse underpins the entire recital: sometimes hidden and barely audible, like a sort of primeval pulse (as in the Berio), and sometimes quite clear.
I’ve known Bartók’s Sonata since I was a youngster, when my teacher Philippe Hirschhorn used to play it at our home. It’s a piece that has always stayed with me. I even used to have Dénes Zsigmondy’s recording of the fugue as the welcoming music on my answering machine. It is a real masterpiece, with perfect form, and Bartók occasionally gives us a glimpse of a cosmos that he can see and hear even though we can’t quite yet. It’s the pinnacle of what is possible on the violin, without having virtuosity as its objective.
The consonance – or actually the battle – between two notes lies at the heart of Berio’s Sequenza VIII. This also presents us with a degree of ugliness. But after the powerful confrontations, as the music gradually subsides in volume – firstly with an ordinary mute and then with the even quieter practice mute – these two notes end up forming a brotherly union. The battle has led to some good after all. This is a really emotional moment