Music for Violin and Cello

Paul Desenne, Zoltán Kodály, Maurice Ravel

LEONARDO ALTINO, violoncello



“The Altinos play beautifully, with nice unanimity of approach and fine technical prowess. This is a chamber pair worth hearing. Yes, there are other just as fine performances of the Kodaly and Ravel, both separately and together, but these are right up there.”
Moore, American Record Guide [January/February 2018]
“[The] program opens with Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello, which could convert anyone with a loathing for string music into an aficionado. Violinist Altino sounds incisive and rhapsodic in the first movement, but never harsh, edgy, or out of control. Together, they bring palpable excitement to the movement’s pizzicato passages... In the first movement of Ravel’s sonata, even in its most agitated passages, the duo sounds glassily transparent, an adept textural adaptation; and, as before, they exercise stunning control of dynamics... However controlled their dynamics or technical effects, they nowhere give the impression of calculation—spontaneity underlies everything... this vividly recorded program should elicit an almost physical response. Very strongly recommended.”
Robert Maxham, Fanfare [January/February 2018]
“[The Ravel] requires advanced technical and interpretive skills from both violinist and cellist and the Altinos are eager to provide it. Each of their instrumental lines is clear and distinct at all times... Desenne has managed to communicate this in his music, and the Altinos have told his stories brilliantly with the addition of MSR Classics’ crystal clear sound... Although all of the performances on this MSR disc are noteworthy, it is the truly delightful music of Paul Desenne that makes the Altinos’ disc a winner.”
Maria Nockin, Fanfare [January/February 2018]
“...the finale [of Kodály’s Duo] becomes a sparkling Presto that gives both players plenty of chances to show off their technique... well-recorded.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [October 2017]
In the world of chamber music for stringed instruments, the violin and cello duo repertoire occupies a unique place. While the string quartet repertoire stands atop as the most celebrated genre of chamber music, it is indeed rare to hear a performance consisting solely of violin and cello music. Noteworthy composers over the centuries have written profound works for string quartet throughout their lives, and many of them dedicated their final years to this genre. The range of sound that a string quartet is capable of producing, using two violins, viola and cello, has proven to be the ideal balance of colors and textures most appropriate for intimate and powerful communication. In addition, there are endless benefits and pleasures string quartet playing offers to musicians who desire to perfect their skills of listening and response as regards tone, rhythm, harmonies, phrasing and an array of unifying elements such as articulation and vibrato.

While studying the string quartet repertoire, it is common for most string players to explore other chamber music genres, such as piano trios, piano quartets, piano quintets as well as various combinations for strings alone. There is a wealth of great music written for strings with piano; however, the piano assumes such a major and dominating role in the group that string players are often not able to utilize the full range of subtle skills that they have gleaned from string quartet playing. On the other hand, in exploring the string trio repertoire, very often there is a sense that “something (or someone) is missing” in comparison to the more familiar string quartet sound. And when more strings are added to expand the string group to a quintet, sextet and octet, the robust and rich orchestral sound produced by many strings replaces intimacy.

The pool of standard repertoire written for violin and cello is considerably small. Further, until the twentieth century, music for two stringed instruments was often considered light and easy music appropriate only for social gatherings and sight-reading pleasures among amateurs. While there were some contributions made by the composers of the Classical era such as Giovanni Battista Viotti and Jean- Baptiste Breval, this genre struggled to catch on because there seemed to be an obvious limit to what a mere two stringed instruments could muster. In order to compensate for the ensemble’s size, both instruments would have to generate substantial and equal amounts of sound, activeness, lyricism, and virtuosity, which would then point to another problem, for throughout history the cello had been commonly thought of as an instrument serving to accompany the violin. During the Baroque period, the cello mostly provided the harmonic bass or rhythmic grid to accompany the soloistic violin. And even during the Classical and Romantic periods, when the cello was beginning to receive more attention as a solo instrument with orchestra, evidenced by the cello concertos of composers such as Haydn and Dvorák, in chamber music, aside from brief moments of spotlight, it continued to occupy the role of support. It is interesting to note that even when composers such as Brahms and Saint-Saëns wrote to showcase both the violin and cello, they composed double concertos to be accompanied by a full orchestra. Clearly most composers have found it difficult to imagine that these two instruments could be convincing on their own, and it has taken us decades of playing chamber music to get to the point of truly appreciating the language of the violin and cello duo with its twentieth century flavors.

One common element in the duo repertoire composed over the last hundred years is that it challenges and tests the limits of both the instruments and the players. Since the two musicians have to tackle all the elements required to achieve a great musical performance, each player’s responsibility to deliver convincing sound, drama, energy, rhythm, color, and virtuosity are at least doubled compared to the player’s responsibility in a string quartet. Both parts are ridden with large registral leaps, series of chords, rhythmic complexity and outbursts of lyricism. This disc consists of three such compositions.

Korean-born violinist Soh-Hyun Park Altino is highly regarded as a gifted teacher and versatile performer of solo and chamber music. Her concert engagements have taken her to Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Germany, Korea and throughout the United States, as well as to festivals including the Duxbury Music Festival, Festival de Inverno Campos do Jordão and Festival Virtuosi in Brazil, and the Academy y Festival Nuevo Mundo in Venezuela. She has collaborated with renowned artists, including Monique Duphil, Oleh Krysa, Laurie Smukler, Suren Bagratuni, Steven Mackey and Jasper de Waal. Prior to joining the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Mead Witter School of Music in 2015, Soh-Hyun served as Associate Professor of violin and chamber music at the University of Memphis, where she regularly performed as a member of the Dúnamis Trio and Ceruti String Quartet. As a dedicated teacher, Soh-Hyun directed the String Intensive Study Program at the Masterworks Festival for eleven summers and has given master classes at universities both in the United States and abroad. She is a strong advocate of continuing education for performers and teachers, presenting professional development sessions, forums and clinics for violin teachers and their students. Her main teachers include Violaine Melançon at the Peabody Institute and Donald Weilerstein at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she earned her Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees.

Brazilian cellist Leonardo Altino began his musical studies at the age of six, giving his orchestral debut performing Saint-Saëns’ Cello Concerto No.1 at age eleven. Altino’s career breakthrough in Brazil came when he became the youngest winner of the prestigious Jovens Concertistas Brasileiros competition in Rio de Janeiro, which led to performances with every major orchestra in the country. Praised in The Strad for “exceptional musical intelligence and an exceptionally cultivated sound,” Altino was the First Prize winner at the International Cello Competition in Viña del Mar, and has since appeared as soloist and in recitals throughout Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela; Italy, Denmark and Greece; Korea and Taiwan and in the United States. In the summer months, he has taught in festivals around the globe. Altino, who served as Professor of Cello at the University of Memphis from 2002 to 2015, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Detmold Musik Hochschule in Germany and University of Illinois. His main teachers include Francisco Pino, Aldo Parisot, Laurence Lesser, Marcio Carneiro and Suren Bagratuni. Altino currently serves on the faculty at the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music.
ZOLTÁN KODÁLY (1882-1967)
I. Allegro serioso, non troppo
II. Adagio
III. Maestoso e largamente, ma non troppo lento – Presto

MAURICE RAVEL (1875-1937)
I. Allegro
II. Très vif
III. Lent
IV. Vif, avec entrain

I. Delta Seis
II. Tañido (sobre una canción larense)
III. Pilón Collider

MSR Classics