Nimbus www.wyastone.co.uk/all-labels/nimbus/nimbus-alliance.html have just released a recording by violist, Herbert Kefer with Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg www.symphonieorchester-vorarlberg.at conducted by Martin Kerschbaum www.martinkerschbaum.com of works for viola and orchestra that span the 18th to 21st centuries by Telemann, Weber, Andreas Baksa and Bruch.
Herbert Kefer (b. 1960) www.artis-quartett.at/d/herbert.html was born in Eisenerz, Austria and received his first musical education on the violin. He went on to study with Prof.Karl Frischenschlager in Leoben and with Prof.Karl Stierhof at the University of Music in Vienna.
In 1980, together with 3 colleagues, he founded the Artis-Quartet, spending a year in Cincinnati, Ohio with the LaSalle-Quartet. There followed an international career including concerts at all well-known festivals such as the Salzburger Festspiele, the Schubertiade Feldkirch, the Wiener Festwochen and the Casals Festival. With the Artis-Quartet he made around 30 CDs some of which received the Grand Prix du Disque or the Diapason d´Or. In 1991 Herbert Kefer was appointed to the Viola class at the University of Music in Graz/Institution Oberschuetzen. He is in demand as a soloist as well as a sought after partner for chamber music performances. From 2005-2010 he was director of the Weinklang-Festival.
Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg bring a nicely laid out opening to the Largo of Georg Philipp Telemann’s (1681-1767) Concerto in G minor for viola and string orchestra with the harpsichord continuo gently sounding through. When he joins, Herbert Kefer brings a quite beautiful tone with the orchestra and soloist dovetailing beautifully in the little rising motif, very finely shaped. They provide a lively, buoyant Allegro with some crisply phrased playing, Kefer handling all the twists and turns wonderfully, retaining a lovely rich tone before a beautifully turned Andante where soloist and orchestra demonstrate a great rapport, the soloist adding subtle expression. In the Presto Kefer brings viola playing of the highest order with both soloist and orchestra providing a terrific rhythmic lift. This fine violist negotiates the fast phrases with a terrific panache and still with that lovely tone.
A performance to lift the spirits.
Kefer’s fine tone is to the fore in the beautifully shaped Andante of Carl Maria von Weber’s (1786-1826) Andante and Rondo Ungarese, Op.35 for viola and orchestra, the soloist adding lovely little rhythmic pointing, weaving some lovely passages with the orchestra. Here the viola really sings. The Rondo Ungarese is rhythmically sprung, full of good humour and Hungarian flavour. The soloist brings a playfulness to so many moments, finding some lovely timbres and maintaining a fine tone across the viola’s range.
Andreas Baksa (1950-2016) was born in Romania and studied with Bartok before later moving to the West. His Viola Pannonica for viola and string orchestra is a late work, commissioned by and premiered at the Weinklang Festival in May 2010.
The Allegro moderato opens earnestly in the orchestra, with a very Hungarian flavour to which the soloist soon adds some particularly fine textures before the music falls back to become quieter and slower. The music leaps up again with Kefer and the orchestra weaving some terrific ideas, string orchestra and soloist blending and weaving the music brilliantly with a lovely forward rhythmic drive. Later a broader, more flowing melody arrives, quite beautiful, to which the viola adds some lovely decorations. There are some wonderfully rich, mahogany phrases from the viola before picking up slowly to find the earlier rhythmic drive.
The music quietens to lead into the Andante where soloist and orchestra bring a quite affecting melody. There are some lovely textures and harmonies between soloist and orchestra and some fine rich timbres from the soloist before a brief solo passage for viola. Soon the viola and orchestra move gently forward, interrupted by occasional orchestral outbursts, with the soloist finding a momentary faster flow. There are moments of increased passion, beautifully done by this soloist before a sudden waltz is announced by the orchestra to which the viola joins, both providing a rhythmically buoyant lift. There is a brief fast and furious section before calm returns with lovely harmonies from the viola over shimmering strings in a particularly lovely moment. The music moves through some gypsy style Hungarian flourishes where Kefer delivers some quite wonderful playing before strange harmonies appear leading to an exquisite coda.
We are taken into a fast moving Allegro vivace, full of tremendous harmonies and textures, darting through a variety of ideas, full of Hungarian rhythms. This soloist often brings terrific, free and spontaneous touches, dancing through some tremendous passages with both soloist and orchestra providing brilliant playing with razor sharp phrasing. There are moments of gentler repose as well as varying rhythmic ideas before a brief solo passage. The music soon takes off, quickly heading to a terrific buoyant coda.
This is a sprawling yet highly attractive work. Whilst there are times, especially in the Allegro moderato, where Bartok is an obvious influence, this is a wholly engaging work, full of invention and colour.
Max Bruch’s (1838-1920) Romanze in F major, Op.85 for viola and orchestra makes a lovely conclusion to this disc with both orchestra and soloist bringing much beauty. Kefer provides an exquisite tone that adds so much to this finely paced performance that allow Bruch’s distinctive themes and harmonies to breathe. The music rises through some very fine passages where, as in all the works on this disc, Kefer lifts them and brings them alive. A real joy.
The recording is excellent with a real presence and there are useful booklet notes, mainly concerning Andreas Baksa, from the soloist.
A video of Andreas Baksa’s Viola Pannonica for viola and string orchestra can be seen on Youtube at the following link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj-Q4fty4vI