“It is a cycle in this small universe, and when one listens to the entire album, he or she would discover the viola’s versatility, and surely be lured into its singing voice– it is warm and tender, yet expressive and melancholic; it could be sensitive and romantic, or intense and serious. And it is irresistibly charming, sometimes mischievous, and undoubtedly sensual yet incredibly sophisticated.“
Les voix de l’alto (The voices of the viola) is Benjamin’s first solo CD, as the result of the researches and studies, which he led during his Artist Diploma in the Paris conservatory.
The CD is an exploration of the relationship between the viola and voice. Benjamin attempted with the purpose to answer the questions “what makes the viola such a close instrument to the human voice?”, and “How to tell a story only with music?”
The aspects of this relationship in the repertoire can be seen from three perspectives. There are works juxtaposing viola and voice, sometimes along with another instrument. The comparison between them is then easy, the sounds answer each other and merge, or support each other. One of the most sublime examples is Brahms’ two lieder opus 91 for viola, alt, and piano.
Other works from the viola repertoire quote vocal works or refer to the voice, either directly (Britten’s Lachrymae opus 50 uses the theme of two 15th century songs from Dowland) or in a more subtle way (Schumann’s Märchenbilder are instrumental tales, using the codes of orality adapted into pure music pieces).
Beyond this, the adaptation and transcription of vocal works is a great way to question and challenge the preconceived differences between the viola and voice…
Gyorgy Kurtag: excerpts from “Signs, games and messages” for viola solo.
Franz Schubert: 4 songs from the “Winterreise”, transcription for viola, reciter and piano
Paul Hindemith: Sonata for viola and piano opus 11 n°4.
Johannes Brahms: Two Lieder Opus 91 for viola, Alt and piano.
Bernd Aloïs Zimmermann: sonata for solo viola “an den Gesang eines Engels”.
Franck Bridge: Three songs for Mezzo, viola and piano.