Violeta Vicci, violin; viola; voice
Aldilà Records (2020)

‘Mirror Images’ is a mesmerising collection of short works for violin, viola, and voice. A tonic for our times, it comprises truly exceptional performances by Spanish-Swiss performer Violeta Vicci. The album opens with Söderlind’s ‘Elegia II’. Sonorous, melancholy, and graceful, it seems familiar-yet-new. A carefully measured violin recording executed with engaging dynamic contrast.

‘Improvisation I’ is the first of Vicci’s imaginative and personal statements. These intersperse the selection. ‘Improvisation II’ combines ancient and modern dance elements, its gentle cadences strumming like a guitar. ‘Improvisation III’ is wistful, exquisite, whilst ‘Improvisation IV’ draws upon traditional idioms as if an unhinged sea shanty. ‘Improvisation V’ features Vicci’s fluid soprano, echoing the resonance of a bowed string. ‘Improvisation VI’ brings vocal and instrument together, the string seeming to reference a hurdy-gurdy.

Bach’s ‘Partita III in E Major’ belies a delicacy of tone, a door opening, a fresh shaft of light. Vicci’s balanced phrasing is both deft and natural. It is in this sense that ‘Menuet I’ seems a somehow secular peel of bells. Each movement short but very sweet – and you find yourself lost inside each.

Aside Söderlind, another premiere is Imogen Holst’s ‘Viola Sonata’. Its ‘Prelude’ journeys to a fantastical landscape. ‘In Cinquepace’ proffers arpeggiated phrases and couplets of minor intervals effecting joy rather than sorrow. Vicci imparts ‘Sarabande’ with a stunning, airy tone. She makes her instrument sing as if singing back to her. You could pleasurably listen to these brief pieces over and over. ‘Sonata’ is followed by the poetic and chanting bird call of Florentz’ ‘Vocalise’.

The circling ‘Obsession’ of Ysaÿe’s ‘Sonata in A minor’ is another remarkable performance boasting superb bowing and pace. ‘Malincolia’ offers a slower tempo, rocking to and fro in an almost-cradle-song. ‘Danse des Ombres’ opens with a gorgeous pizzicato section giving way to slide-y melodic phrases hastening in speed and vibrancy. ‘Les Furies’ proffers welcome touches of vibrato as its lines ascend and descend.

The album concludes with ‘Sarabande’ from Bach’s ‘Suite no.5 in C minor’. A gentle but potent footnote to this exquisite collection.

– Martin Slidel

The CD is available for purchase via Naxos Direct.

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