- Ali, for viola
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Even though Geneviève Strosser's 2011 Aeon release appears to be devoted mostly to György Ligeti's "Sonata for viola" (1991-1994), there are actually five significant works on this disc that claim the listener's attention. Ligeti's name recognition no doubt helps this CD stand out, and his sonata is one of the major viola works of the 20th century. But the rest of the album presents challenging pieces that display the full range of modern viola techniques, such as the exhaustive use of tremolos in "Trema" (1981), Heinz Holliger's perpetual motion study; the dense multistops and dissonant counterpoint of Franco Donatoni's "Ali" (1977); the delicate pizzicati and light ricochet bowing of Helmut Lachenmann's "Toccatina" (1986); as well as the sustained microtonal lines and mixed effects in Giacinto Scelsi's "Manto" (1957). Taken together with Ligeti's exploration of the instrument's special timbres, tuning inflections, harmonics, and other extended techniques that came from the modernist quest for new sonorities, this album presents a well-rounded program of what solo viola music sounded like at the peak of the avant-garde. Strosser's thorough mastery of her instrument makes this a fascinating display of virtuosity, but her profound expressions shape the music into something much more compelling than a potpourri of gimmicks. The adventurous will find this an attractive disc, and string players who study experimental music will especially benefit from Strosser's extraordinary playing.