Take one of the world’s leading violists. Add an accordion player of rare talent and musical imagination and a generous helping of Baroque masterpieces. Season this with a mixture of spicy Renaissance harmonies and rhythms, and bring it all to a simmer in the warm acoustics of a 14th century church. The result is Antiquities, a disc which ranges from the meditative (as in Dowland’s Lachrymae) to the extrovert (J.S. Bach’s Italian Concerto). Always easy on the ear, this disc is nevertheless constantly thought-provoking: the unfamiliarity of the sonorities making us hear the music anew. “Is one actually allowed to play a Bach chorale like this?” is one question which may spring to mind. Another is: “Performed in this way, what does a motet by Machaut actually communicate?”
Among string players, Nobuko Imai is a household name. One of the viola’s foremost exponents, she has over the years recorded some of the most important repertoire for the instrument on BIS – always to great acclaim. A recent offering was BIS-CD-1211, containing music for viola by Max Reger, a disc which was awarded a Diapason d’Or as well as being singled out by the reviewer of the web site Classics Today.com who gave it an ‘unqualified "must-have" recommendation’.
Mie Miki will also be familiar to BIS followers, partly for Sonorities, her disc of contemporary works for the accordion (BIS-CD-1144). But her interpretations of music by Scarlatti, Rameau and other Baroque masters have also been much noticed. Musical partners of long standing, Nobuko Imai and Mie Miki have already collaborated on one BIS release, Into the Depth of Time (BIS-CD-929). About that disc, with contemporary works for the instruments, the critic of the German magazine Fono Forum wrote that the ‘magnificent duo opened up horizons previously unthought of’, remarking upon the masterful way the two musicians managed to ‘fuse together the sonorities of their individual instruments.’ That Nobuko Imai and Mie Miki on the present disc, in repertoire where we “know” exactly how it should sound, again offers us new horizons, is a testament to their great musicality and gift as chamber musicians.