I don’t normally do a lot of listening to recorded music, with the exception that I often use recordings as a way to prepare for upcoming performances. Every so often, however, I do happen to purchase recordings out of either curiosity to hear something I’ve never heard before, or for the sake of hearing something I know well done (hopefully) in a new and interesting way. With that in mind, here are a few recordings that have crossed over my transom during the past season, and my thoughts on them.
I was once part of a viola quartet called “The Four Violas” (an hommage to The Three Tenors) that played some really incredible arrangements done by our fearless leader Joël Belgique. There were, at the time, not too many works written especially for the unusual combination, aside from works by York Bowen, Ichiro Nodaira, et al. Into the breach comes the most noteworthy item on this excellent disc of the music of west coast composer Paul Chihara, his work for four violas entitled Concerto Piccolo, a brief work in four movements. Excellently played by four Los Angeles violists (Paul Coletti, Ben Ullery, Gina Coletti, and Zach Dellinger), it is one of those rare upbeat works that features the viola. It displays lightness, humor, and virtuosity – descriptors not always on the tip of the tongue when one talks about the viola! The remainder of the disc features previously written works of Chihara’s for the viola with other instruments – Redwood, for viola and percussion; theViola Concerto, with the Colburn Orchestra (conducted by Yehuda Gilad); and the Sonata for Viola and Piano. All are beautifully played by Colburn faculty member Coletti and his fellow musicians, and well worth a listen, especially for violists. Currently, only the sonata and Redwood are published and available for purchase.