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20th Century Duos - ECR Music Group | NYC
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20th Century Duos

“In recent years Engine Company Records, an independent label in New York, founded by Blake Morgan, has had success with contemporary artists . . . But recently Mr. Morgan released the company’s first classical album, 20th Century Duos For Violin And Cello, with works by Zoltán Kodály, Roger Sessions and Maurice Ravel and performed by two brilliant and musically curious artists, the violinist Gil Morgenstern and the cellist Darrett Adkins. A recording of three seldom-heard works for an unconventional combination of instruments might seem a risky venture. But the music is terrific and the performances compelling on this surprisingly exciting and excellently engineered recording…”
—The New York Times

The combination of violin and cello, while a constant in chamber music throughout the history of western concert music, did not come into its own as an independent ensemble until the early part of the 20th Century. Certainly the cello had been used as a continuo instrument in baroque violin sonatas, but those works are not duos in the sense of equal partnership that we now associate with that word.

Since Zoltán Kodály’s groundbreaking Duo for Violin and Violoncello (1914) established the virtuosic possibilities of this ensemble, a number of composers have fashioned duos for this combination that rank among their most important works. It seems as though the challenge of writing for violin and cello has inspired composers to unusual heights of formal and technical display. The duo of Gil Morgenstern and Darrett Adkins was formed with the conviction that this repertoire needs to be interpreted with the same care that it was fashioned, that its inherent compositional brilliance and virtuosity require equally brilliant and virtuosic interpreters, whose commitment to the repertoire is long-term. This recording presents three major milestones of the repertoire, spanning almost the entire 20th century.

About Gil Morgenstern

Acclaimed for his artistry and technical brilliance as soloist with orchestra, in recital, or as a chamber musician, violinist Gil Morgenstern has performed all over the world to overwhelming critical praise (“…a perfect demonstration of supreme ability…” —The New York Times). Performing in public since he was five, Morgenstern has toured extensively on five continents and has shared the stage with such eminent artists as Philippe Entremont, Lynn Harrell, Sharon Isbin, United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Morgenstern has been the subject of numerous television and radio shows both at home and abroad and his performances can be regularly heard on National Public Radio broadcasts. In addition to his performance activities, Mr. Morgenstern is the co-founder and co-artistic director of Nine Circles Chamber Theatre, a creative organization dedicated to exploring and expanding the collaborative nature of inter-disciplinary performance, the violinist and artistic director of the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble, a diverse chamber group specializing in Classical, Romantic and contemporary works of mixed instrumentation, and the artistic director of Reflections, an international performance series based in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Italy.

About Darrett Adkins

Darrett Adkins is one of the foremost American cellists today. His appetite to bridge the world between the established tradition and the avant-garde enables him to explore repertoire in almost every genre—from the classical canon to the contemporary frontier. Recent appearances include concertos with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Tokyo Philharmonic, the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, Tochio Solosten, Seoul’s Prime Orchestra, Cleveland’s Red, the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, and the New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra. From 1997 until 2002, Mr. Adkins was a member of Flux, a string quartet dedicated to cutting-edge music. He appeared in major festivals in New York, Melbourne (Australia), Southern California, and Oslo (Norway). Mr. Adkins joined the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music at Oberlin College beginning in the fall of 2003 and has been on the faculty of The Juilliard School since 1995. In 2003 he joined the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he teaches cello and co-directs the string chamber music program.

“In recent years Engine Company Records, an independent label in New York, founded by Blake Morgan, has had success with contemporary artists . . . But recently Mr. Morgan released the company’s first classical album, 20th Century Duos For Violin And Cello, with works by Zoltán Kodály, Roger Sessions and Maurice Ravel and performed by two brilliant and musically curious artists, the violinist Gil Morgenstern and the cellist Darrett Adkins. A recording of three seldom-heard works for an unconventional combination of instruments might seem a risky venture. But the music is terrific and the performances compelling on this surprisingly exciting and excellently engineered recording…”
—The New York Times

“The story here is the adventurousness of the recently founded indie label, Engine Company Records . . . It has boldly kicked off its classical line with an unusual program played by two outstanding American string musicians, violinist Gil Morgenstern and cellist Darrett Adkins . . . The pair’s best results come in the Kodály which, despite formidable competition from more than 20 available recordings (but not, unfortunately, the one that is arguably the best, by Heifetz and Piatigorsky), makes a strong and thrilling impression . . . Morgenstern and Adkins project with swing and passion, technical command, and musical exhilaration. No wonder their recording has excited so much interest.”
—Laurence Vittes, Strings Magazine

(4.5 STARS) “The Kodály Duo for Violin & Cello has existed since 1914; in its long existence, it has been performed by countless duos and recorded dozens of times. In its recorded history, few efforts have come close to capturing the same level of Bohemian flare as cellist Janos Starker and violinist Josef Gingold. While their performance really exemplifies all that this piece has to offer, the present recording of violinist Gil Morgenstern and Darret Adkins comes excitingly close to capturing the same level of energy, gutturalness, and rhythmic panache . . . Both of these artists play with unbridled passion with never a sense of holding anything back. Their attacks on each note are almost brutal, yet they never demand more from their instruments than they can deliver. Intonation is superb, articulation is brilliantly matched, and the interplay between the two is seamless. If this was the only piece on the program, this disc would still be worth buying. Fortunately for listeners, there’s more. The Duo of Roger Sessions allows Morgenstern and Adkins another opportunity to demonstrate their total command of their instruments through the much more varied tonal language that Sessions employs. Closing out the album is another cornerstone of the repertoire, the Ravel Sonate for Violin and Cello. The slight haziness and mysteriousness that Morgenstern and Adkins add to their sound for this work round out an exceptional and completely worthwhile album.”
—Mike D. Brownell, All Music Guide