Bartók: Sonata for solo violin; Kurtág: Signs, Games & Messages

Reviewed on Tue 29 Nov, 2016

Simon Smith plays with poise, dynamism, tonal variety and an outreach of expression. Excellent recorded sound and presentation.

György Kurtág (who turned 90 this year) has a knack of compelling the listener even with a rudimentary and repeated phrase and equally of creating an expansive world when a piece is aphoristic. The eighteen movements of Signs, Games & Messages play together for less than half an hour – the longest is just short of five minutes and several are counted in seconds; individually and collectively they make a big and intriguing impression. Simon Smith plays with poise, dynamism, tonal variety and an outreach of expression. As he does with further music for unaccompanied violin by an earlier Hungarian master, Béla Bartók, his large-scale four-movement Sonata (in fact of similar length to the Kurtág) composed for Menuhin, invention ignited by a noble opening gesture and compelled by intensity and meticulous working out, yet the idiom is fiery and earthy, and eloquent in the slow movement. Excellent recorded sound and presentation.
–Colin Anderson