By Miranda Wilson | From the July-August 2021 issue of Strings magazine
The title of Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös’ third violin concerto, paired in this recording with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, is inspired by the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. As Eötvös explains in the liner notes, the meandering form depicts taking a walk through the buildings and grounds of the medieval fortress, surrounded on all sides by spectacular natural and architectural landscapes. Along the way, his complicated melodic and harmonic structures explore the Alhambra’s fusion of Spanish and Arabic cultures. Embedded in the melodic material are the letters A-L-H-A-M-B-R-A, plus coded references to the names of the two dedicatees, violinist Isabelle Faust and conductor Pablo Heras-Casado.
This is an astonishingly virtuosic composition for the orchestra as well as the soloist. Eötvös creates a dazzling display of instrumental color combinations between members of the woodwind and percussion sections, while a mandolin in scordatura tuning acts as a companion and foil to the solo violin. The scoring is relatively light, allowing for multiple cadenza-like sections for the soloist. Isabelle Faust’s performance is luminous; no bravura passage is beyond her artistry as she leads the listener through Eötvös’ dramatic soundscapes. The Orchestre de Paris, under Heras-Casado’s direction, creates a perfect balance with the soloist. Thanks to their advocacy, this exciting new work is sure to find a place in the core repertoire.