Dark Velvet: A Musical Autobiography


Music often means more when shaped by personal experience, as evidenced by this album of compositions for solo and duo performed by violinist Julija Hartig, pianist Reineke Broekhans and cellist Maja Bogdanović. Subtitled “an autobiography in music”, the 10 pieces in the program were written or arranged for Hartig, each adding its own narrative thread to an interconnected journey linking the Serbian violinist’s Yugoslav heritage to later life and musical pursuits. in the Netherlands, where she has lived since 1994.

The most obvious autobiographical thread is seen in Hartig’s inclusion of two plays by his father, Tibor, the anguished expressive Monologue for solo violin contrasting with a more conversational, neoclassical tone heard in Dijalogi for violin and cello, the nature of the music as a repartee aided by the skilful exchanges of Hartig and cellist Bogdanovic.

Several tracks on the album were written by or are related to Serbian composer Isidora Žebeljan, described by Robert Hugill as “a lively and restless talent”. from Zebeljan dark velvet was originally written for solo piano (and often performed by her in this version) but appears here in a new arrangement for violin and piano by one of the composer’s pupils, Veljko Nenadić. Composed as a tribute to Mahler (with the presence of Messiaen never far from the surface), its poignancy is further heightened by the death of ebeljan in 2020 at the age of just 53. An arrangement of “Oh, die, my love” by Žebeljan, taken from the composer’s Rukoveti song cycle, sung and performed by Hartig, gets an almost Kopatchinskaja treatment.

Another tribute to Žebeljan’s legacy is provided by Greek composer Calliope Tsoupaki, steeped in folk A song for Isidoraas his presence is felt in the Air & Riffs for violin and piano, a dreamlike opening section turning into something altogether more nightmarish at the end. For me, at least, the main highlights belong to the evocative and soundscape of Aleksandra Vrebalov Hartig Constellation for violin and prepared piano, and Florian Magnus Maier The music of Erich Zann for solo violin – the latter a visceral 10-minute tour de force that impressively harnesses layers of compositional and violinistic virtuosity.

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