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Discography: Baiba Skride

img  Tobias

It might seem a bit odd presenting a career-overview of someone who, in her mere mid-20s, has only just released her thirrd album. On the other hand, there are few young artists who actually live up to their record companies’ claims the way violinist Baiba Skride does. Far away from the glossy magazines some of her colleagues like to reside in, she has been able to create an aura that is entirely her own and ows as much to her personality as to the degree of fantasy she sparks in the listener. About time you found out about her.

Like most Classical artists, Baiba has a strong preference for concerts, when compared to the studio situation. While pianist Freddy Kempf finds it hard to create the same ambiance inside the secure walls of a recording facility, Skride’s hot blood recoils when faced with the slow progress of a CD production. “I’m a spontanteous person and if you’ve got to do the same thing ten times in a row and keep your concentration while you’re at it...” she described the difficulties of “Bach Bartok Ysaye”, her first album, to weekly “Die Zeit” (who has encouraged her a great deal and saw to it that the German audience wouldn’t forget her name too quickly) and confessed having not been able to sleep decently for a week. While listening, the inward tension of these pieces is still clearly audible, allbeit not as a nervous fever, but rather as a purifying intensity. Of all introductions, this must be one of the clearest and most courageous: For almost 80 minutes, you are alone with nothing but Baiba, her violin and three musical catharses. In the 16 minutes of Bach’s “Ciaccona”, one of the pivitol points of the entire violin repertoire, her strokes are as pointed and rough as a light saber, but this only serves the transcendental feeling of the piece and goes to deepen the cleansing effect. And in Bartok’s Solo Sonata, she switches from a truculent stumble to stupifying tenderness within seconds. A monolothical debut.

Probably to exemplify her versatile nature, Sony simultaneously released a second disc with an entirely different program. On “Mozart & Haydn: Violin Concertos”, Baiba is accompanied by the Kammerorchester C. Ph. E. Bach under the direction of Hartmut Haenchen and together, they dive into a repertoire of the Classical era. The difference with the first disc could hardly be any bigger. This was released in September at the time and clearly catered to the budding Christmas trade: Arrangements are as soft as snow and as sweet as chocolate cookies and if you close your eyes you can hear Santa’s Bells in the background. Michael Haydn (younger brother of Joseph) rears his head with a rarely played Concerto, but besides that, it’s a disc with few surprises and a high feel-good factor. Skride’s straightforward sound lends a nice counterweight to the sugar-factor, though.

Unexpectedly, these two albums are reduced to the status of preliminary practise with the arrival of “Shostakovich & Janacek: Violin Concertos”. Out now, again on Sony BMG Masterworks, this is an immediately appealing effort with enough edges and trap doors to occupy your mind for quite a while. Between her last CDs and this one, Baiba had abstained from recording and instead travelled a lot, focussing on building her live presence as a duo with her sister Lauma and a trio with Argentinian shooting star Sol Gabetta. While general media attention subtely subsided, she firmly positioned herself as an uncompromising alternative to some of her more accesible colleagues. To a less informed observer, her sudden arrival out of nowhere in 2004 must have seemed like the typical business-fabrication (even though she had previously won the 2001-edition of the prestigious Queen Elisabeth competition in Brussels). But through persistance, she has gone from instant success to absolute integrity. Her new album again offers a very own, but absolutely sensible mix and uses her concert-experience to its advantage – recorded live at Munich, this captures Skride in a pensive and yet explosive mood. The dark waters of the first movement of Shostakovich’ Vilolin Concerto are juxtaposed with a fulminant follow-up, while the saddened sighs of the “Passacaglia” dissolve into a cold, yet ethereal solo. Monumental and massive, this is like a musical totem. Janacek’s “The Wandering of a Little Soul” is equally intense, offering naive folk-melodies in one instant, nerve-wracking, almost minimal-music-like movements and fiery erruptions in the other.

Heavy stuff indeed, but accesible and emotive at the same time. From Bach to the 20th Century, Baiba Skride has now convincingly tackled many centuries of repertoire. And in the course of three albums, she has managed to confound expectations in such a way, that one would consider any next move she might make probable. There’s hardly a lack of talented violinists around, but there’s not too many of them who can make that claim.


"Bach Bartok Ysaye" (Sony Classical) 2004
"Mozart & Haydn: Violin Concertos" (Sony Classical) 2004
"Shostakovich & Janacek: Violin Concertos" (Sony Classical) 2005

Baiba Skride

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