Hyperion Records

Improvisation and Dance, Op 30
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Improvisation and Dance Op 30, composed on 30 December 1939, is a virtuoso work in the mould of violin showpieces by composers such as Sarasate, Wieniawski and Ravel, yet refracted through the unique modal filters of Ben-Haïm’s Eastern Mediterranean idiom. The Improvisation has echoes of Bloch’s Baal Shem suite in its reflective soliloquy, coloured both by the whispered hues of the low range and the glistening harmonics of the highest registers, yet its Eastern colours are evident in the delicate ornaments, chords and trills. When the piano enters with atmospheric arpeggios, the violin becomes increasingly rhapsodic. A slow dance evolves, the piano’s sustained drones and trills supporting a delicately tripping violin idea, which is soon set in dialogue. The Dance is launched by chordal syncopations in the violin and a frenetic ostinato piano pattern. Momentum is interrupted for a brief recollection of the slow Improvisation, but the speed picks up over a long piano trill and the dance resumes, this time the tune heard in the piano against vibrant octaves in the violin. A final pause for breath precedes the exhilarating final flourish.

from notes by Malcolm Miller © 2007

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