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CD review: Back-country music, toned up with Kodaly

Submitted by on Oct 7, 2011 – 4:38 pm

“The Peasant Girl.” Viktoria Mullova, violin; Matthew Barley Ensemble.  (Onyx, two CDs) ***

Violinist Viktoria Mullova's album "The Peasant Girl"The jacket blurb on this free-wheeling, gypsy-inspired mélange calls it “music that is blissfully free from the misleading shackles of genre.” It is indeed that. In a sense, the program takes the Russian-born violin virtuoso Viktoria Mullova back to her ancestral roots in the Ukrainian outback, in the traditional music of gypsies and other rural folk. Mullova graces the album cover in colorful peasant weeds. But punctuating this get-down session are two classical excursions, one in a sort of bridge mode. Mullova offers a piquant spin on seven Bartok duos for two violins, recast here with wisps of improvisation by piano, drums and percussion. Strictly orthodox is her collaboration with her husband, cellist Matthew Barley, in a performance of Kodaly’s formidable Duo that combines dark lyricism with a deep pulse of exhilarating urgency. Barley proves to be an able cellist, and an imaginative musician, anchoring the high-flying fiddle with a rich, supple sound. The remaining fare is uneven, though Joe Zawinul’s jazzy “Pursuit of the Woman” and “The Peasant” provides smart fun. This is essentially 1.5 discs worth of music that might have been pared to one CD.  – Lawrence B. Johnson

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Album contents: Bartok: Seven Duos (with improvisation); Kodaly: Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7; DuOud: “For Nadia”; John Lewis: “Django”; Florian Hermann: “Dark Eyes”; Bratsch: “Bi Lovengo” and “Er Nemo Klantz” (with Bartok duos); Weather Report (Joe Zawinul): “The Peasant” and “The Pursuit of the Woman With the Feathered Hat”; Barley: “Yura”; Youssou N’Dour: “Life.”