Roger Benedict, principal violist with the Sydney Symphony, has turned his hand to some attractive arrangements for viola. Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor (Arpeggione) for viola and piano, was written for the short lived six stringed Arpeggione, an unsuccessful instrument. The work fell to other uses, in this case the viola. Though full of the composer’s genius, it is a melancholy work. That said, it seems difficult to describe works for viola as other than thoughtful; it goes with the territory and all these fine works tick that box. The last movement of the Schumann gets busy and provides some welcome energy after all the introspection.
Also arranged for viola are Schumann’s Intermezzo and his Sonata for Piano and Violin in A Minor. Benedict’s arrangement of the sonata, if milder than the original piano version, also takes on the more reflective mood of the whole enterprise.
Winterreise, a winter’s journey, is one of Schubert’s most famous song cycles. These arrangements of eight songs from the cycle are not without interest, but the human voice has a unique quality which makes any other interpretation a real challenge. Whether it works well enough in this case will depend upon the listener, for me it is an interesting experiment. What is certain is that the music survives these reinterpretations with flying colours. The performances are first class and the recording by the ABC is excellent.