A Superb Program of Duos for Viola and Violoncello

I’ve had this Coviello CD out for several weeks now, intending to listen to it again. It had made a very good impression the first time through, but I hadn’t decided to review it yet. After listening to it a few times through today, I don’t know why I hesitated in the first place. Maybe I felt that eager listeners for a complete album of viola and cello duets might be in short supply. However, in the spirit of my blog’s mission, this album is without a doubt uncommon, and it certainly deserves to be heard.

These are all original works for viola and cello duet. While the extent of the repertoire for this instrumental combination is very limited, composers have been drawn to it over the course of many musical periods. Aside from the obvious and natural blend of the two like-sounding instruments, the combination is quite unique in that, from the bottom of the cello to the top of the viola, the range is huge without any significant change in timbre.

It’s unlikely that you will know much, if any, of the music on this interesting and varied program. The earliest works are from the early 19th century: the Duetto by Alessandro Rolla (1757 – 1841) and Beethoven’s Duett “With Eyeglasses Obligato”. The remainder of the pieces all come from the 20th century with duos by Volker David Kirchner, Julian Milone, Rebecca Clarke, Paul Hindemith and Witold Lutoslawski. While there’s quite a variety of music here, it is for the most part tonal and easy to listen to. Some of my favorite tracks are the languid and lovely Malagueña by Milone, and Rebecca Clarke’s peaceful Lullaby.

In the final analysis, what really makes the CD so enjoyable is the level of musicianship. Chamber music programs of this nature come along periodically, but seldom offer the level of playing to be heard here. Cellist Martin Ostertag was solo cellist of the SWR Sinfonie Orchester Baden-Baden undFreiburgwhere violist Katrin Melcher played in the viola section.

The Beethoven Duetti has just concluded for what must be the third or fourth time this afternoon. Charming. I think that I’ll play it again.

Album Overview

Duos for viola and cello are not exactly a typical chamber music genre – at fi rst glance, the contrast between the two instruments, which play in a similar register, seems too small. But it is precisely this lack of a clearly dominant voice that opens up new interpretive possibilities; almost inevitably, the focus shifts away from virtuosic effects and changes to chamber music-like intimacy that compels both composer and listener to concentration. On their new CD, Katrin Melcher and Martin Ostertag explore this distinctive sound world with a series of original compositions.


Viola: Katrin Melcher

Violoncello: Martin Ostertag

Martin Ostertag, a native of Lörrach, studied under Leo Koscielny at the Karlsruhe Academy of Music and with André Navarra in Paris. He received prizes at the Vienna International Competition in 1969 and in the Young Artists Concerts … read more


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