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
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