Doris Lederer CD Reviews
" Both artists are American virtuosos in their own right" - American Record Guide, 2003
"All viola lovers should snatch up this disc" - American Record Guide, 2005
"Emotionally candid and imaginatively shaped reading...deeply felt, resourcefully argued colloquy, eloquently served" - Gramophone 2006
"If I had to go for a single version of the Bowen Viola Concerto this would be it" - Musicweb International, 2006

“whilst Lederer’s leaner, more focused sound reminds one rather more of the Primrose alto tradition”

“ [Lederer’s Bax Sonata recording] contains what is one of the best performances the work has received on disc and therefore fills a very important gap in Bax’s discography."

American Record Guide, January/February 2009

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Bowen’s represented here that makes me prick up my ears is the Fantasia for Four Violas of 1907. While there is no piano part—thus making this work the odd man out in this set—it still has the broadest tonal palette. Written for Tertis and three of his students, it doesn’t shy from the higher regions of the fingerboard, so the brightness of the upper A string contrasts delightfully with the darkness of the low positions on the C string.

Two other notable works are the Melody for the G String of 1917 and the Melody for the C String of 1918. While it had been common since at least the time of Paganini to write entire works or extended sections of compositions for the G string on the violin, these are the first concert works I know that were written specifically for the lower two strings of the viola, the two strings that contribute most to giving the instrument its distinctive sound. The Phantasy of 1918 and the Rhapsody of 1955 are Bowen’s most satisfying extended works for viola and piano, showing a much firmer grasp of compositional niceties than the two sonatas, with no lack of inspiration.

While it is good to have all this music in one set, much of it has appeared on a trio of CDs by Doris Lederer. I reviewed two of them, The Passion of Bliss, Bowen and Bridge, which has the Fantasia for Four Violas, the Melody for the G string, and the Rhapsody (July/Aug 2005) and the recording of the Viola Concerto and Viola Sonata 2 (Nov/Dec 2006), and David Moore reviewed the recording of Viola Sonata 1 and the Phantasie (Sept/Oct 2004). We were both impressed by Lederer’s musicianship and tone. Also, all three recordings are on the Centaur label, and the recordings have more presence and hall ambience than the Hyperion set, though I must admit Hyperion’s sound is very refined. Lederer’s viola has a deeper, sweeter sound than Power’s, and her tone is richer. Lederer is a very fine musician who knows how to sing through her instrument and bring a musical line to life. Power is a fine musician too, and has a bit wider dynamic range than Lederer, playing real pianissimos—something many soloists are afraid to do—and inserting the occasional uniquely beautiful nuance. Of the two, I lean toward Lederer, who has a more assertive personality and voluptuous tone. These two qualities are especially noticeable in the Fantasia for Four Violas. Lederer and her quartet are ravishing and exciting from beginning to end, while the ensemble sound isn’t as rich and full and the music doesn’t consistently hold my interest in Power’s recording. Power is no slouch, and he is a fine musician and excellent technician, so those who really want to have all of Bowen’s music for viola and piano would do well to pick up this set.
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