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Reykjavik Midsummer Music – Ecstasy

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M. Ravel: Sonata for violin and cello
Z. Kodály: Sonata for solo cello
T. Hosokawa: Ecstasy for solo violin

Rosanne Philippens (violin), István Várdai (cello), Sayaka Shoji (violin)

In this matinée concert, three of today’s foremost string players approach ecstasy in three highly virtuosic works. Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello is written in the memory of Claude Debussy. Though Ravel admired the music of Debussy, their relationship was a complex one – Ravel spent most of his early career in Debussy’s shadow, and was recognised as France’s leading composer only after his death in 1918. In this sonata, Ravel is clearly free from all past grudges against the great master, but another composer’s influence can also be detected; namely that of Zoltán Kodály. Fittingly played here by Hungarian cello virtuoso István Várdai, Zoltán Kodály’s Sonata for solo cello was written 1915 for another cellist of seemingly limitlest abilities, Jeno Kerpely. The sonata ranges over five octaves and uses virtually every string technique there is. Furthermore, the two lower strings of the instrument are tuned a semitone lower, extending the range of the cello further and allowing for subtle harmonic novelties. Sublimely beautiful and filled with emotional urgency, the sonata is both firmly rooted in Hungarian folk music and strikingly modern in spirit. The final work is an ecstatic new work by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa, commissioned and premiered by Sayaka Shoji at Wigmore Hall in 2016: Extasis.

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