Shostakovich at peak concentration

  

Sometimes just two instruments are enough to reveal a composer’s cosmos. The TschoppBovino duo exemplifies this: These two duo sonatas contain a concentrate of Dmitri Shostakovich’s musical idiom: the grotesqueness, sharpness, elegiac quality and anger - all the violent emotions present in his fifteen symphonies and string quartets, concertos and operas. Mirjam Tschopp and Riccardo Bovino play his two late sonatas with urgent intensity and concision. This is music on a knife-edge. There are biting harmonics and pallid pizzicati in the stringed instrument, hissing trills and muffled rumblings in the piano. The unconventional, capricious transitions, disparate moods and diverse idiomatic allusions are compelling, the linearity sharply etched. The wilfully superficial lures, the intimate withdrawals, the depths of these works: all of it is utterly convincing.

Magazin Concerti (Eckhard Weber)

June 2016

A new departure, and falling silent

  

[...] Tschopp and Bovino have a great deal to offer in terms of expressive nuances - sorely needed to bring this spiritualized music to life. The gruffness and turbulent breathlessness that begin the fast second movement are vividly rendered, as is the way they generate tension by gradually bringing out its dance-like facets. This is nevertheless a dance of death, and its merciless rhythm triumphs. The viola sonata, Shostakovich’s last completed work, also dances midway, albeit briefly, far less fiercely, and soon fraying; indeed, in this richly allusive work, all is gradually reduced to a skeleton shorn of the few musical ideas. This fading away into silence is vividly evoked by Tschopp and Bovino.

Musik & Theater (Reinmar Wagner)

September/October 2016

A new definitive recording of the true avant-gardist

  

[...] The new recording by Mirjam Tschopp and Riccardo Bovino of the viola sonata and violin sonata - written seven years earlier– scales Olympian heights. Not only is Tschopp an outstanding virtuoso on both violin and viola: her viola playing does not sound like a deeper violin, but like its beautiful self - an authentic expression of the alto range, with magnificently powerful depth. Tschopp’s expressivity covers a wide range. A fundamental part of it is her unsentimental and heartfelt pragmatism, which makes for an ideal approach to Shostakovich’s world-weary late style. Bovino is a supremely sensitive and perceptive partner, and even in the most tricky dynamic passages they form an excellent duo. The very wide dynamic spectrum was a conscious decision. [...]

  

This is the most authoritative recording of these works to appear for decades. We look forward to hearing more from these unusually serious and accomplished artists.

The New Listener

August 16, 2016

"CD of the week" in Klassik Heute

  

[...] As Mirjam Tschopp is equally skilled on both instruments, she and her partner are a dream team – which on the CD greatly enhances the close relationship between the two sonatas.

Anyone who equates the term "plunge" with impetuosity or unreflected youthful passion is soon taught otherwise. We need terms such as wide awake, crystal clear, enlightened – or: scrupulous and with razor-sharp precision. For it is precisely these qualities which are behind the moments of excitement, when the softer the sound, the greater the intensity becomes. Tschopp and Bovino turn "piano" into what it is in Shostakovich: something profound, that lies in wait! The duo plays these sections sparingly and in a minimalist way, almost alarming in their insistence, and are adept at building the drama with endlessly graded dynamics.

  

At the beginning of op. 134 the violin uses a twelve-tone scale to launch an imploring lament, while the piano has a single line over long stretches. The less notes, the more urgent they are. This principle, which Shostakovich carries to extremes - especially in the last sonatas - is deeply internalized by this duo. Tschopp’s violin sound is low in vibrato, elegant and supremely powerful. Emerging from troubled repose, the dynamic increases sound like furious and rebellious impulses. The fast, loud, extrovert middle movements are purposeful and relentlessly rhythmical. It is fascinating how often in the many fast syncopated sections percussive piano interjections mesh with shrill pizzicato flashes. Slow-fast-slow, this radical inversion of the “normal” movement sequence is played with well-dosed symmetry by the artists.

  

These qualities are no less apparent in the second sonata recorded here – although under the hands of the duo this ‘swansong’ begins in an even more introverted fashion than its predecessor, with flashes of more heartfelt elements and a passionate central dancing movement which appears to burst with positivity. Yet even when this last composition of a genius soars to movingly beautiful, fragile melodies, it is never long before they are undermined, often by grotesque caricatures. Dodecaphonic elements and the occasional direct influence of Alban Berg are clearly apparent in this late work. The duo’s clarity ensures that we experience the exciting friction between intellectually challenging dodecaphony and many emotional elements of the Russian musical idiom.

Klassik Heute (Stefan Pieper)

June 23, 2016

[…] The crepuscular and singular world of Dimitri Shostakovich finds convincing performers in the Duo TschoppBovino. Together they pay tribute to the Russian master combining as expected virtuosity and a sense of the drama appropriate to the composer, fascinating in their unique handling of clarity and shadow, of the said and the implied, the striking and the modest.

Res Musica (Jean-Luc Caron)

November 28, 2016

Clarity without end

  

 [..] These are sounds beyond time and space. Tschopp’s gentle viola tone endows this resigned swansong with appeasing warmth. Bovino picks up the string instrument’s shaded colours, playing the sparse textures with a clarity that is never harsh. The interpretation is characterized by concentration and an almost sacral tranquillity. This also applies to the Sonata for violin and piano op.134 of 1968, the endless elegy dedicated to violinist David Oistrakh. The second movement is a grimacing dance atop the volcano.

  

These are first-class recordings of two masterpieces of classical modernism.

Badische Zeitung

June 4, 2016

The whole Shostakovich dimension

  

Violinists rarely play the viola with as much enjoyment and skill as the violin. These are usually two different types of musician. Violinist Mirjam Tschopp is an exception; she has always also loved the viola’s darker timbre, and switches effortlessly between the two instruments, ingeniously making the most of their tonal beauty and essential differences. [...]

The elegiac violin sonata in G major was written for David Oistrakh; Shostakovich included very few markings in this thoughtful dialogue between violin and piano, which features abstract serial writing of great tonal beauty. The duo shape this intimate dialogue with shimmering intonation. Pianist Bovino intuitively matches the violin’s colours, never emphasizing his rhythmic equality, and the drama remains internalized.

The viola sonata, this expressive swansong hovering between pure tonality and dodecaphonic lines, is equally mesmerizing. Tschopp’s sonorous viola sound is warm and powerful, as well as impressively aggressive in the dancing Allegretto. The piano writing is always sparse, involving two fatefully linked linear voices.

The musicians react subtly to one another without neglecting their own part. Thanks to their concentrated eloquence and creative far-sightedness, the whole Shostakovich dimension is revealed to us through this simple two-part texture. This gets under the listener’s skin.

Zürcher Oberländer (Sibylle Ehrismann)

June 8, 2016

Journal Frankfurt lists the CD as No. 2 of their Top 5

  

[...] The recording is a prime example of precision, in sound and recording technique as well as in interpretation. Motives and musical ideas seem to stand before the speaker, crystal clear and detailed. This makes listening to music fun!

Journal Frankfurt

May 17, 2016

Highly atmospheric Shostakovich Sonatas

  

[...] Mirjam Tschopp and Riccardo Bovino encompass the various moods and emotions from melancholy to bitter irony to irascibility with a great sense of form and complete mastery of dynamics and colour.

Pizzicato

June 26, 2016

Emotion followed by lasting applause

  

[...] After the interval things became more moving. ”Very many composers only wrote for the viola at the very end of their lives”, as Tschopp explained before performing Dimitri Shostakovich’s viola sonata. The violist rendered the passionate rebellion and the soft intervals of apparent submission to fate with gripping intensity. A deathly hush followed the closing bars of the final Adagio. Then gradually the audience’s applause swelled to a tumultuous climax.

Anzeiger Burgdorf

May 13, 2014

Refinement, elegance and exquisite euphony

  

[...]  Appearing in Ludwigshafen, they impressed with their eminently cultured  rapport. Unerring technical competence and cultured estheticism were evident in this concert; the performances’ refined elegance gave great pleasure. This was already the case in the first piece. Mozart’s piano and violin sonata in F (K 376) was vibrant and graceful, with clear contours, alert shaping, agile and flexible dynamics and subtle accentuation. A not insignificant contibution to the  overall impression was the way Tschopp, in the last movement, varied every appearance of the rondo theme, and her evenly flowing melodic line in the slow movement.

Talking of melodic line: Tschopp produced exquisitely melodious sounds, be it on the violin or - on the lower instrument -  in Mendelssohn’s sonata for viola and piano (a youthful work without opus number). [...] Following the Mendelssohn, performed with vivacity and sensitive attention to detail, Tschopp returned to the violin after the interval, and displayed a sophisticated feel for the rhapsodic tone and constant tempo changes of Enescu’s third violin and piano sonata in A minor (op.26, “In Rumanian folk style”). Splendidly seconded by Bovino, the violinist revelled in the alternation of melancholy and exuberant emotionality. Much applause at the end, and as encore a Nocturne by Lili Boulanger.

Rheinpfalz / Mannheimer Morgen (Gabor Halasz)

November 2012

Tschopp impressed [in Bach] with secure technique and an immaculate, powerful and carrying tone, at times almost brittle yet very expressive, for instance in the slow movement’s lyrical passages. The Allemande was full of youthful fire, spirited yet disciplined, and the concluding Gigue effortlessly virtuosic.

In a rendering marked by the pianist’s wisely unostentatious virtuosity and the violinist’s  delicacy and elated elegance, with refined pathos in the Adagio’s  cantilenas, the Duo TschoppBovino paid tasteful tribute to the genius of this long underestimated musician.

This followed the most spectacular, enjoyable and impressive part of the matinee - Robert Schumann's "Märchenbilder". In Tschopp's dazzling viola part, the instrument quite shed its timidity, appearing – in passionate dialogue with the equally spectacular pianist – to rebel against its traditional role with a moving plea for equality. Gypsy-like zing dominated the second of the “Märchenbilder”, subtitled “animatedly”. [...]

Südwest Presse / Fränkische Nachrichten

July 2012

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