Virtuoso Czech violinist Barbora Kolářová releases her debut recording of solo violin works, including the premiere recording of Pascal Le Boeuf's title track, alongside rarely heard works by Jean Françaix and Moravian composer Klement Slavický.
Imp in ImpulsePascal Le Boeuf
|02||II. Tomato Caprice|
II. Tomato Caprice
|03||III. Perverse Chaconne|
III. Perverse Chaconne
|04||IV. "...thus meditates a plunge"|
IV. "...thus meditates a plunge"
|05||V. Imp in Impulse|
V. Imp in Impulse
Theme with 8 Variations for Solo ViolinJean Françaix
|06||Theme - Con Spirito|
Theme - Con Spirito
|07||Variation I - Moderato|
Variation I - Moderato
|08||Variation II - Larghetto Poetico|
Variation II - Larghetto Poetico
|09||Variation III - Allegro Assai|
Variation III - Allegro Assai
|10||Variation IV - Allegretto|
Variation IV - Allegretto
|11||Variation V - Adagio|
Variation V - Adagio
|12||Variation VI - Andantino|
Variation VI - Andantino
|13||Variation VII - Scherzando|
Variation VII - Scherzando
|14||Variation VIII - Molto Pomposo|
Variation VIII - Molto Pomposo
Partita for Solo ViolinKlement Slavický
Virtuoso Czech violinist Barbora Kolářová releases her debut recording of three works for solo violin, one written for her and heard in its premiere recording, and the other two significant works that are given new life and deserved attention through her vibrant renderings.
Imp in Impulse is a caprice written for Barbora Kolářová by American composer Pascal Le Boeuf (1986). The title is a phrase used by American philosopher Dr. Paul A. Lee — a metaphor describing a spirit that tempts a person to do things without inhibition. Perhaps a precursor to Lee’s metaphor, the colloquialism “The Imp of the Perverse” was popularized by Edgar Allan Poe’s 1845 short story of the same title. In either case, this imp has come to be associated with what Harvard psychologist Daniel M. Wegner describes as ironic processes of mental control: “These monitoring processes keep us watchful for errors of thought, speech, and action and enable us to avoid the worst thing in most situations, but they also increase the likelihood of such errors.” Following Dr. Wegner’s research, such impulses arise due to a focused intention on avoiding specific errors or actions. According to Poe, “that single thought is enough. […] There is no passion in nature so demonically impatient, as that of him who, shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.” This impulse is present at various levels throughout this composition from the performer’s shoes and bowing directions, to the cheeky juxtapositions of traditional and unorthodox compositional devices.
A gifted composer and pianist, Jean Françaix wrote music that drew frequently on traditional forms and was historically inspired. His work is often described as neoclassical, demonstrating a preference for melodic themes and tonality with timbres and textures that frequently betray his French roots and are reminiscent of Ravel. Written in 1980, Françaix’s Tema con 8 variazioni for solo violin remains one of the composer’s least performed instrumental works. Over the course of the piece, the buoyant and lilting theme undergoes a series of transformations, each of which is centered on a particular technique idiomatic to the violin in the manner of Niccolò Paganini’s 24 Caprices for Solo Violin.
Evident immediately from its title, the Partita for Solo Violin by Moravian composer Klement Slavický pays homage to J. S. Bach’s landmark series of Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin (BWV 1001–1006) from 1720. Although both pieces rely heavily on gesture to make each movement come to life, Bach’s partitas draw on well-known Baroque dance forms, while Slavický’s movements utilize modern genres that are defined more by dramatic character than traditional structures. In “Improvvisazione”, the lack of barlines and florid ornamentation afford the violinist significant performance liberties that contribute to the movement’s improvised character. The “Intermezzo” serves as a moment of respite, and in this movement we are given the most tender melodies of the entire work, which emerge from a constant pulsing that unifies the whole movement. The third movement, “Esercizio”, is a technical endeavor for the violinist, requiring the performer to traverse the highest and lowest registers of the violin in a constant stream of notes that alternates between duple and triple divisions, while the fourth movement, “Dialogo”, unfolds as a conversation in which the violinist must perform the roles of the different interlocutors. Though we are given no program for the dialogue, Slavický’s tempo markings and directives provide some sense of the nature of the exchanges, moving from calm and tranquil sections suggestive of agreement or concern to more animated and impassioned passages evocative of disagreement or anger. In the final movement, “Capriccio”, sudden moments of rest and playful slides contribute to a lighthearted character that round out the many emotions explored in this dramatic work.
Barbora Kolářová is recognized as one of the foremost young violinists to emerge from the Czech Republic, having received widespread acclaim for her ability to move audiences with her passionate performance, inherent musicality and comfortable command on stage. Co-founder and Artistic Director/General Manager of the Lake George Music Festival, Barbora is a Manhattan Concert artist, Lincoln Center Stage artist and a visiting Co- Principal Second Violin of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.
Ms. Kolářová’s 2019/2020 season highlights include the world premiere of a solo violin composition by GRAMMY Award nominated composer Pascal Le Boeuf written for Barbora, a premiere of David Ludwig's Violin Concerto No.2 "Paganiniana" for solo violin and chamber ensemble as well as world premiere of Sheridan Seyfried's Capricio for solo violin. Barbora will be returning to the Curtis Summerfest as contemporary faculty/artist, debuting with Orchestra Santa Monica under Maestro Roger Kalia performing Brahms’ Violin Concerto, giving solo recitals and outreach events in Washington DC, New York, Europe, Southeast Asia and performing chamber music concerts as part of Lincoln Center Stage in Hawaii, Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia. Ms. Kolářová’s will be releasing a solo violin album "Imp in Impulse" including works that have not been previously recorded in the fall of 2019.
Barbora Kolářová appeared numerous times as a soloist with the Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra performing throughout Europe and the United States and has also performed solo concertos with the Czech Radio Symphony, the Czech National Theatre Orchestra, the West Bohemia Symphony Orchestra, the Limoges Orchestra and the Academy Sinfonietta Orchestra where she also served as a concertmaster (2013-2015). Miss Kolářová is also a former visiting performing artist of the Czech Philharmonic (2013-2016) and visiting concertmaster of the Orquestra Filarmonica de Minas Gerais in Brazil (2017-2018).
As an active soloist, chamber musician, and member of numerous prestigious orchestras she has appeared on the stages of Carnegie Hall, Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center, National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, Cultural Centre in Hong Kong, Dewan Philharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, Musikverein and the Wiener Kozerthaus in Vienna, Warsaw Philharmonic Concert Hall, Lisinski Hall in Zagreb, and the Dvorana Hall/ Union Hall in Maribor, Slovenia. She has collaborated with many notable artists such as the Ying Quartet, the Johannes Quartet, Ruggiero Ricci, Sir Simon Rattle, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, Andre Previn, Yannick Nezget-Seguin, Alan Gilbert, Fabio Luisi, Neeme Jarvi and many others.
A native of the Czech Republic, Barbora Kolářová holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Curtis Institute of Music and Master of Music degree from the Yale School of Music. Her major teachers include Pavel Prantl, Charles Avsharian, Ida Kavafian, Arnold Steinhardt and Ani Kavafian. Barbora plays 1700 Antonius Josephus Laske violin and her performance wardrobe is provided and sponsored by Malaysian designer Alia Bastamam, styled by Shahrezzan Ezani and Jimmy Najeem.
The world of unaccompanied violin, viola or cello works might be seen as subject to some prime influences. Nowadays there is of course the enduring example of Bach and also that influence as channeled in more Modern ways by Reger and Hindemith. Then perhaps there is the more flashy virtuoso path of Paganini and perhaps also the conflation of tunefulness and virtuosity in Kreisler. There are no doubt other compositional influences as well but these particular ones come to me this morning as I write this..
These thoughts occur to me, that is, as I specifically listen to an album forthcoming very soon from Czech violinist Barbora Kolarova. It is an all-solo outing entitled Imp in Impulse (Furious Artisans FACD 6822). She makes a strong showing of considerable virtuosity harnessed to a nicely overarching expressivity via three compositions that give us substantial fare to contemplate. The works show the general influences of all the above-mentioned composers to greater or lesser degrees while maintaining an original stance, all while Ms. Kolarova puts her own very personal stamp on the performances.
Of the three composers represented here, Jean Francaix (1912-1997) is the most familiar (to me). His "Theme with 8 Variations for Solo Violin" (1980) is the midpoint in the program and has in its eight variational movements the kinetic virtuosity of Paganini and Ravel with a pronounced inventive abstraction that sets it into later last century decidedly. Kolarova handles it all heroically, as she does the entire program.
Pascal Le Boeuf's title piece "Imp in Impulse" heads off the program with a premier recording of the five movements that have memorably thematic and figurational impact, a kind of spontaneity the name of the work implies and some decided freshness that repeated hearings only serve to underscore. It was composed especially for Ms. Kolarova by the American Le Boeuf and seems to dovetail remarkably well with the violinist's adventurous musical personality.
The title refers to philosopher Paul A. Lees' phrase (Imp in Impulse) that personifies the human tendency to monitor and act on a need to avoid mistakes--which brings a two-edged sword to our actions, because we can resolve errors but we can also cause them by being too quick to act. The music reacts to and plays upon that paradox in winning ways if one listens for it.
The final Partita for Solo Violin gives us some extraordinarily complex, expressive and difficult-to-play ecstatics of sound from Moravian Klement Slavicky (1910-1999). It manages to pay homage to Bach's solo violin Partitas as it travels originally and independently forward to present-day Modern territory.
Barbora Kolarova should receive well deserved acclaim for this fine album. It has all the drama and excitement one might hope for in a solo violin recital. The music surely warrants our full attention. Bravo!
— Grego Applegate Edwards, 2.27.2020
"Imp in Impulse" is a caprice written for Czech violinist Barbora Kolárová by American composer Pascal Le Boeuf (1986). The title is a phrase used by American philosopher Dr. Paul A. Lee — a metaphor describing a spirit that tempts a person to do things without inhibition. The album also includes Jean Françaix's Theme with 8 Variations for Solo Violin; and Klement Slavický's Partita for Solo Violin. BELOW: Kolárová performs "Imp in Impulse" by Pascal Le Boeuf.
— Laurie Niles, 3.19.2020
THE WORD “CAPRICE” HAS A DOUBLE MEANING. PASCAL LE BOEUF’S IMP IN IMPULSE: CAPRICE FOR SOLO VIOLINIST BARBORA KOLÁŘOVÁ DOES TOO.
Described as "sleek, new" and "hyper-fluent" by The New York Times, Pascal Le Boeuf is a Grammy nominated composer, pianist, and producer whose works range from modern improvised music to cross-breeding classical with production-based technology. He is widely recognized for his polyrhythmic approach to chamber music and hybridization of disparate idioms, which come into play in Imp in Impulse.
The Imp of the Perverse, a phrase popularized by Poe’s short story, is a metaphor for the urge to do exactly the wrong thing in a given situation for the sole reason that it is possible for wrong to be done. This title sets the listener up with accurate expectations, to have our expectations toyed with. Le Boeuf says, “Barbora comes from a formal classical background, so more contemporary extended techniques like vertical bowing, chopping, scratching, and bending in and out of tune are meant to represent perverse/antithetical approaches—the right kinds of “wrong” sounds. I also tried to make impulsive decisions to arrive at the thematic material and when structuring the piece. [I blame David Lang for this approach… he is a great contrarian role model!]”
To do the wrong thing, there has to be a solid form in place that sets up expectations. A caprice is defined as “a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behavior” and as a piece of music which is lively, virtuosic, fast, and usually free in form. By naming Imp In Impulse a caprice for solo violin, Le Boeuf draws from the rich history of violin caprices which have become central to the Classical music Canon.
Le Boeuf explains, “Imp in Impulse certainly refers to classic works such as Paganini’s 24 Caprices, Bach’s Partita for Violin No. 2, and Grażyna Bacewicz’s Violin Sonatas, but presents dialects associated with these classic works juxtaposed against more contemporary approaches influenced by Garth Knox’s Viola Spaces, Andrew Norman’s Sabina, bluegrass fiddle techniques popularized by Casey Driessen, and rhythms idiomatic of progressive jazz and 90’s electronica. The idea of a caprice fit the concept so well that I thought it appropriate to embrace the tradition in this respect. I also like to think of the 17th century Italian capricci, a genre of painting in which the structures and content that inform the work are derived from a variety of sources and times.”
Caprices have earned their place firmly in the Classical Canon partially because they allow for the soloist to show off a bit and thrill the audience. Le Boeuf references the most standard caprices, Paganini’s, but also alludes to newer works. Composer/violist Garth Knox’s Viola Spaces is a collection of eight concert studies for solo violist. Although they are not named caprices, they are short works that display virtuosity in the performer’s execution of extended techniques. Le Boeuf uses one of these non-standard techniques, vertical bowing, that Knox includes in Viola Spaces.
Virtuosity is an important aspect of Imp in Impulse. Le Boeuf shares, “I’ve always been attracted to rhythmic virtuosity. One of the first things I wanted to do was use chopping techniques to represent a sort of odd time signature drum’n’bass style. I am a big fan of 90s and 00s electronica (think Aphex Twin, Luke Vibert, Venetian Snares) and the compositional language of this era is a frequent influence in my work. After my friend/colleague Matt McBane introduced me to the work of Casey Dreissen, I knew this would be possible. Dreissen, a renowned educator and fiddle player, offered instructional videos on his website, so Barbora and I bought them and started chopping.”
Imp in Impulse was written specifically for classically trained violinist Barbora Kolářová. On how they began this collaborative process, Kolářová says, “I was first introduced to Pascal's work when I performed his piece Wanderlust in November 2016, and it was love at first performance. I loved the energy and drive of the music. I became reacquainted with Pascal's work a year later when Pascal won the Lake George Music Festival Composition Competition. I first listened to his winning piece blindly, not knowing who the composer was, but I immediately recognized that I was listening to something I already knew, performed and understood. Pascal and I met in person in the summer of 2017, and we immediately clicked. We performed Pascal's piece Obliquely Wrecked, and from the first rehearsal through the performance, it was clear that we spoke the same musical language, understanding and complementing each other's artistic sensibilities. Shortly after our first rehearsals, I approached Pascal about writing a solo violin piece...and here we are!”
Both Kolářová and Le Boeuf get a little outside of their comfort zone in this collaboration. Just as Kolářová learned chopping to play Imp in Impulse, perhaps Le Boeuf embraced a more classical approach to writing for violin. Le Boeuf shares, “If this is more classical, it is because it is a reflection of an artist (Barbora) trained in the classical tradition. I certainly enjoyed engaging with the rich world of violin repertoire both past and present. Above all, getting to know Barbora through composing this music has been a joy and a pleasure, and I hope to continue in this direction in the future. Also, I wonder if it would still sound classical with a drum set. We’ll have to try it…”
Le Boeuf’s first musical language was jazz piano and Kolářová’s was classical violin. Musically, Imp in Impulse is influenced by both of their backgrounds. In a successful collaboration between a composer and performer, the resulting work can be a meeting of musical ideas and display the personalities of the collaborators. Imp in Impulse certainly gives the listener insight in this department: Kolářová and Le Boeuf both share a love for benevolent tricks and inside jokes.
Le Boeuf says, “In addition to being elegant and virtuosic, Barbora is a mischievous prankster. One of the ways this manifests is her shoes. When Barbora and I first performed together at the Lake George Music Festival in 2017, she was working as a double agent in the formal role of Artistic Director for the festival and had about 30 pairs of shoes hidden under her desk. She would change her shoes impulsively at least twice a day. Some were quite outrageous. To me, these shoes represent a subtle element of mischief and daring in what is often the more formal context associated with classical music.” He continues, “The shoes also provided an opportunity to represent her unique personality in the music video and in performance. I too can be a prankster, so when we drafted a formal commission agreement, we included a clause that requires Barbora to wear a different pair of shoes every time the piece is performed. She didn’t mind. She even compiled her favorites for the video. We are still hoping to get a shoe endorsement.”
-- Anna Heflin, Classical Post, 3.20.2020
— Anna Heflin, 3.20.2020
Barbora Kolářová has selected three out-of-the-way solo violin works for this disc. The earliest is Klement Slavický’s Partita of 1963, its title an overt homage to Bach’s own solo violin compositions and cast in five movements. Its expressive range is wide, from quasi-improvisational across-the-barline freedom to far terser statements couched in an occasionally challenging but always approachable language. The inbuilt ornamentation and resinous drive of the music does allow for more introspective passages, shelter from the storm, and an opportunity for a kind of internal dialogue in which pizzicati and lyric lines encode a kind of musical characterisation. Slavický also makes use of slides, repeats and frenetic drama to build up a formidable work that might remind one of his Rhapsody for solo viola. He was an especially fine composer for solo strings, and this is a fine reading of the Partita.
Characterisation and concision are hallmarks of Françaix’s witty Theme with Eight Variations (1980). The con spirito theme is the essence of geniality and the succeeding variations explore a crisp and poetic array of developmental opportunities. There’s certainly a Paganinian Caprice element involved – he even manages to replicate the famous insouciant laugh that Paganini enjoyed employing, though even Françaix doesn’t go for the Paganini-Sarasate jaunty whistle in harmonics. His pizzicati, unlike Slavicky’s combative examples, are more poetically inclined, and with crisp bowing, Kolářová shows she is fully on top of the piece.
American composer Pascal Le Boeuf wrote Imp in Impulse for Kolářová. It is indeed an impish work, juxtaposing elements to joyful effect and full of vernacular rhythmic swing, though without being jazzy. There are plenty of coloristic moments, a range of dynamics and attacks and some splendid movement titles (‘Tomato Caprice’ anyone?). This drolly-named movement sees a bit of Kroll-derived Banjo and Fiddle though there are scrunchy, drone-like passages too. There are more archaic elements in the Perverse Chaconne – the title presumably relates to Poe’s The Imp of the Perverse cited in the booklet notes. In any case it has a slow-drawn but compelling motion. Let’s hope fiddlers take up this often-ingenious piece. They could hardly have a better role model than the Czech violinist.
This well recorded, vitalising disc has only one drawback, which is a playing time of 46 minutes. Fine for an LP but maybe another piece would have been appropriate to tempt the listener still further.
— Jonathan Woolf, 3.28.2020