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Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, October 2009

All the performers here are members of the Vienna Philharmonic under which rubric the series is presented as a series title: Philharmonic Soloists. The orchestra’s principal violist is Heinrich Koll and he is featured in this disc devoted to wide ranging repertoire which democratically includes Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen.

As I listened to the Handel-Halvorsen I noted down a few words; elegant, precise, nuanced, tactful and discreet were some. Koll and his violinist daughter Alexandra play with taste and clarity. The pert pizzicato passage is well judged. There’s something missing though. It’s all just a little too neat and there are touches of mannerism. Is the swell on the last note justified?

Hindemith’s Sonata does sound a bit bluff and under-inflected after the generous lyricism of the classic Primrose/Sanromá (on Biddulph). Koll’s greater linearity means that there are fewer overt contrasts. This terser approach is exacerbated by a fastish vibrato. For my own taste I regret a lack of the greater expressive magnitude of the older pairing, though I happily concede it’s a performance predicated on logic and proficiency. Primrose was always laudatory of a performance he gave with Britten of Lachrymae in which he admired what was between the cracks as it were, what wasn’t notated. It’s a moving but difficult work to get across, and its culminatory unfolding of Dowland’s song must emerge naturally from within the fabric of the writing. This one is finely textured and convincing, though without quite the last ounce of tonal fibre.

No complaints about the Beethoven where the playing is genial, the ensemble solid, and the sonority warm and rich. In the Schumann Koll is joined by Madoka Inui and the eminent figure of Peter Schmidl. These three experienced plays have an excellent rapport. Balances are finely judged; dynamics are excellent. The ethos is mellifluous and affectionate. Inui plays a full part, ensuring rhythmic snap when required, and strong chording elsewhere. This is all fluent and elegant, and very pleasing.

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, May 2005

“Naxos, always looking for new ways to do things, has begun issuing CDs devoted to particular instruments, featuring the top musicians of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. This one’s a fascinating mix. Violist Heinrich Koll has put together tremendous liner notes, full of nerdy humor and complete with Viola Jokes (of which there are many). His playing, happily, is just as marvelous. The biggest treasures are four “Marchenerzahlungen” (fairy tales) by Schumann for clarinet, viola and piano, Op. 132. The third of the four is absolutely ravishing — no small thanks, as Koll reminds us, to the deep, earthy, burnished, underappreciated viola.”

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