Music for a Glass Bead Game

JMR 15

Playing Time: 62:34

Arturo Delmoni - Violin
Nathaniel Rosen - Cello

Music for a Glass Bead Game Cover Music for a Glass Bead Game is the latest offering from John Marks Records. The title is taken from the Nobel Prize-winning novel The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse. Hesse's apocalyptic story tells of a brotherhood of artist-scholars living in a distant post-nuclear society, as they immerse themselves in a complex game where connective ideas are the playing pieces. As music is an important part of the novel's fabric, John Marks has used its themes of connections and universality to capture thematically the musicianship of two of his favourite artists - Arturo Delmoni and Nathaniel Rosen. I found Mr. Marks' concept intriguing while discovering some of the most spectacular string playing this side of heaven.

The metaphysical mystery tour includes works for string duo by Bach, Handel, Giordani, Martinu and Kodály. Obtuse compositional connections, maybe, but music connected by a universal truth. And, how magnificently that truth is displayed. On all musical planes, Arturo Delmoni and Nathaniel Rosen scarcely put a foot wrong. Here is playing of power, finesse and intensity, voiced through imagined and unimagined emotion.

The musical tale opens with the ever-present J. S. Bach. The novel introduces Bach's two-part inventions through the protagonist's meeting with his music-master. If you like your J.S. played only in its originalfassung, no worries. The beauty of the performances will render your prejudice obsolete. These splendid examples of Bach's contrapuntal lines are sustained magically by both artists. Secure intonation helps the listener forget what devilishly difficult pieces they are. The two-part inventions are mixed pleasantly throughout the recital, giving welcome respite to the intensity of their surroundings.

With the addition of Handel's Passacaglia (from Suite No.7 in g minor), baroque style gets a powerful shot in the arm. Spectacular playing of a different kind is showcased during these sublime variations. The piece contains bravura string effects such as ponticello and spicatto. I am not sure they are what Handel had in mind, but no matter - the performance is a thrill, complimenting John Halvorsen's clever arrangement. Classical style is included via the obscure Neapolitan, Tommaso Giordani. His Duetto II is performed lovingly, its elegant demeanor captured well by the superlative recording.

Twentieth century music is partnered ideally by two great eastern Europeans, Zoltán Kodály and Bohuslav Martinu. Both composers' Duos for Violin and Violincello are miniature masterpieces, and in keeping with their provenance, are performed with requisite brilliance. The pieces are highly-charged, Delmoni and Rosen giving every ounce of their considerable power to control the energy. That sonorities so rich can be produced by just two instruments, amazed me. And while the Martinu piece is superb, the Kodály Duo, with its echoes of Háry János, is the highlight of this wonderful hour of music-making.

Production values, as usual from JMR, are superb. From the articulate liner notes to the magnificent cover art (a Burne-Jones painting), the product exudes class. The recording is warm and detailed, its feet planted firmly in the digital domain. The sound is given a natural perspective which highlights the rhythmic buoyancy of the performances. Purchase College's Recital Hall is spacious and allows the timbres of the Guadagnini violin and Montagnana cello to intertwine sensually. Yet clarity of focus is what JMR brings to their recordings, and with Music for a Glass Bead Game, that philosophy is continued.

Through the performances, the varied music within Glass Bead Game works beautifully, and when approached from the context of the book, the music takes on even deeper meaning. Bravo, Mr. Marks. Bravissimo, Mr. Delmoni and Mr. Rosen. A superb achievement. Worthy performances to accompany the spirit of one of the great novels of the twentieth century.

Copyright©Anthony Kershaw, 1998