Stefan Wolpe – Music for Violin and Piano

Volume seven of Bridge Record’s on-going Stefan Wolpe series focuses on music for violin and piano. And it also presents a capsule summary of the composer’s development.

As a young man, Wolpe was enamoured of Schoenberg and his 12-tone technique. The Duo for Two Violins, Op. 2 (1924) comes from that period, but it’s no Schoenberg clone. While Wolpe’s language is atonal and dissonant, it’s also somewhat lyrical in places. To my ears, some of the passage reminded me of Bartok.

The Sonata for Violin and Piano (1949) represented a stylistic shift, using what Wolpe called “displacement.” The work has a certain halting quality to it, as motifs are displaced with inserted rests. Although the two instruments seem to play independently, I heard their lines elliptically relate to each other time and again, giving the work a cohesiveness that slowly revealed itself with repeated listening.

The Piece in Two Parts for Violin Alone (1964) is a fascinating composition, an organic work with its own internal logic. Movses Pognossian’s performance seems to effortlessly flow from idea to idea — even though the piece itself continually stops and starts.

I wouldn’t recommend this release as an introduction to Wolpe’s oeuvre. But for the listener who’s familiar with Wolpe’s work and is ready to explore his catalog further, this can be an excellent “next step” purchase.

Stefan Wolpe – Music for Violin and Piano (1924-1966)
Movses Pogossian, Varty Manquelian, violins; Susan Grace, piano
Bridge Records 9452

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