The Albek Duo from Switzerland burst onto the classical recording scene in 2010 with a highly-regarded violin-piano CD called South of the Alps. The next year they made a brilliant premiere recording for Naxos of William Perry's Gemini Concerto. The concerto title is particularly appropriate because Ambra and Fiona Albek are in fact twin sisters.
They have released two more discs since then, and this one, Sound in Search of a Past, has a particularly rich programme that includes sonatas by Grieg and Janacek, the enchanting From My Homeland by Smetana, Ernest Bloch's Abodah, William Perry's The Nightingale in the Park, and in a virtuoso switch of instruments, an arrangement of Bartok's Romanian Folk Dances with Ambra playing the viola.
The Albek Duo has established a fine reputation as they have toured throughout the world, and this lovely CD shows how well-deserved that reputation is.
Classical Program Annotator
The twins: Ambra (violin and viola) and Fiona Albek (piano), perform both as a duo and as soloists in Switzerland, as well as in Europe, the United States, South America, Australia, and in China. In “Sound in Search of a Past” they pay tribute to Norwegian, Czech, Hungarian, Swiss and English music. Complimenting the classic form of the sonata, other works in Sound in Search of a Past identify, for example, with Eastern European folklore, with Jewish-heritage inspired Swiss music…
Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), composed his Violin Sonata no. 2 in G Major, op 13 in 1867 when he was only 24 years old. He drew inspiration from his Norwegian national heritage, and his aesthetic lies in the sphere of the great 19th century masters, particularly Schubert. Fiona, on the piano, immediately sets the tormented scene with energy and precision (Lento doloroso), complemented by Ambra’s sure, flawless notes, and with melodic soaring in Allegro vivace. The Allegretto tranquillo in the second movement is followed by a spirited Allegro animato.
Sound in Search of a Past also pays tribute to Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) in From my Homeland (1874-79) with its lyrical overtones; to Leos Janacek (1854-1884) with his Violin and Piano Sonata, composed between 1921 and 1931; and to Bela Bartok (1881-1945) with Romanian Folk Dances, in Alan Arnold’s viola and piano arrangement. These works are markedly inspired folklore. Ernest Bloch (1880-1959), a Swiss national who was educated in France before obtaining American citizenship, focused primarily on a Jewish repertoire, as illustrated in Abodah, a prayer composed for the holy day Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
The programme ends with The Nightingale in the Park, composed for the Albek Duo in 2010 by William Perry (born 1930), which evokes the song of a nightingale, near an elderly couple and a poet sunk in deep reflection, while children play and lovers stroll in the park. As underlined by Stefano Bazzi this descriptive page, free from religious or patriotic overtones, is a discreet tribute to the pastoral style professed by Ralph Vaughan Williams, a forerunner of the British school of thought.
The Albek Duo, through their sensitive perception of nuances in such diverse musical styles, thus offer an eloquent and panoramic repertoire of violin, viola, and piano, that is both cosmopolitan and appealing, and very original.