Frank Peter Zimmermann and Heinrich Schiff make their ECM debuts with an involving and adventurous duo recital, recorded in the monastery of St. Gerold and Frankfurt’s Festeburg Church. Throughout, they combine exhilarating musicianship and an impulsive approach with supremely subtle phrasing and dynamics, as they move through a very broad scope of music for violin and violoncello.
“A whole series of outstanding masterpieces have been written for this format,” Heinrich Schiff notes, “works that are outstanding not only in the oeuvres of the composers concerned but in the chamber music repertoire altogether. This applies especially to Honegger and Martinů, whose chamber music is under-acknowledged. Evidently the combination of violin and cello spurs composers to master the huge challenges of two-part writing, whether as one oversize solo instrument (in duplicate, so to speak) or with an almost orchestral richness, so that we seem to be hearing a string quartet in miniature.”
Zimmermann and Schiff have been playing together for over 20 years and extend their collaboration now into a recently formed piano trio with Christian Zacharias. Schiff feels that in Zimmermann he has found “a wonderful partner who thinks much along my lines but does quite unexpected things”. Having performed the Brahms Double Concerto together frequently, the two musicians realized that “we simply had to play duos, especially the Ravel Sonata, one of his best and most adventurous works, almost verging on Schoenbergian terrain. It exploits every stylistic device to the utmost, it's inventively written throughout, and it’s extremely demanding.”
Schiff feels that the main enticement for his duo with Zimmermann is that he can, so to speak, “play solo sonatas in duet”. In their duo recording the two musicians quickly realised that they wanted their programmes to cover a range spanning centuries and styles: from the strict counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach to the polyphonic complexity and dynamism of Honegger's Duo and the Slavic-Bohemian hues of Martinů, to the ethereal music of the young German composer Matthias Pintscher (b. 1971). When the musicians were pondering who to commission a new work from, “we quickly settled on Pintscher”, says Schiff. ”In 2003 Frank Peter had given the premiere of his en sourdine for violin and orchestra in Berlin. I share his high opinion of Pintscher’s music.” In the piece that transpired Study 1 for ‘Treatise on the Veil’, inspired by the art of Cy Twombly, the fine-spun string sonorities are realized so delicately and sensitively by Zimermann and Schiff that it is frequently difficult to tell which instrument is employed.
The album reveals not only the delightful timbral potential of the combination of violin and cello, it also presents an extremely wide range of contrasting two-part textures. The origin and affinity of the instruments used by the players gives this musical encounter an added allure: both men play Stradivarius instruments dating from the year 1711 –Zimmermann a violin formerly owned by Fritz Kreisler, Schiff the renowned 'Mara' cello.
Frank Peter Zimmermann was born in Duisburg, Germany, in 1965 and started playing the violin at the age of five, making his debut with orchestra at the age of ten. Since completing his studies with Valery Gradov, Sashko Gavriloff and Hermann Krebbers in 1983 he has played with the world’s leading orchestras and worked with premier conductors. Another major focus of his concert career are his many recitals throughout the world. His regular accompanist since 1998 has been the Italian pianist Enrico Pace. In 2003 he created the solo part at the premiere of Matthias Pintscher's violin concerto en sourdine. His premiere of a violin concerto by Brett Dean with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra is scheduled to take place in March 2007. Zimmermann has made countless recordings, including almost all the major violin concertos from Bach to Weill and many works from the repertoire for violin and piano. Many of his recordings have been awarded international prizes. Zimmermann’s most recent release is Ferruccio Busoni's Violin Concerto in combination with his Second Violin Sonata.
Heinrich Schiff was born in Gmunden, Austria, in 1951 and played the piano from the age of six before turning to the cello four years later. After studying with Tobias Kühne and André Navarra he gave his debut in Vienna and London in 1971. This launched a stellar solo career that has led to performances with all the great orchestras and pre-eminent conductors in the major music centres of the world. For years he has taken a special interest in contemporary music, working regularly with many leading composers of our time and presenting premieres of their works. The most recent example is Johannes Maria Staud's Cello Concerto, which he performed with the Vienna Philharmonic under Daniel Barenboim at the 2006 Salzburg Festival.
Schiff has recorded all the central works of the cello repertoire, from Vivaldi to Lutoslawski and Bernd Alois Zimmermann. He received many prizes for his recording of Bach's solo suites and the Grand Prix du Disque for his reading of Shostakovich's two cello concertos. His recording of Friedrich Cerha's Cello Concerto on ECM New Series is in preparation.
In addition to his busy career as a cellist, over the last two decades Schiff has conducted many great orchestras, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the London Philharmonia, the Dresden Staatskapelle and the Munich Philharmonic. He is also a principal or guest conductor with the German Chamber Philharmonic (Bremen), the Northern Sinfonia, the Copenhagen Philharmonic, the Stuttgart RSO, the Winterthur Collegium Musicum, the Bruckner Orchestra (Linz) and the Vienna Chamber Orchestra.
CD package in slipcase includes 28 page German/English booklet with liner notes by Hans-Klaus Jüngheinrich and Paul Griffiths plus musician and composer photos.