Dedications – Works for Two Violins (2000) — János Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter — Avant-garde Classical

Works composed by: Hans Otte, Igor Korneitchouk, Adam Greene, Nicolas Vérin, Rick Burkhardt, Richard Carrick, and Robert Scott Thompson

...the current state of the art of violin virtuosity...

Seven ground-breaking works for violin duo written expressly for János Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter. The music on this disc describes the current state of the art of violin virtuosity and contemporary compositional technique.

In the dozen or so years that they have been playing together, Janos Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter have built a reputation for performances of uncommon musicality, warmth, and insight. Their skill, their curiosity, and their deep mutual understanding have made them ideal interpreters of the new music that they have advocated so persuasively and with such commitment. The compositions on this disc, as on Janos’ earlier recording of solo Dedications (Neuma Records 450-95), demonstrate an extraordinary diversity – from the contemplative (Otte) to the raucous (Vérin), from the extended techniques of Burkhardt and Korneitchouk to the seamless textures of Thompson, from Carrick’s playfulness to Greene’s somber introspection. In each case Janos and Päivikki vividly project the characters of these works and communicate the joy and conversational freedom of their collaboration.

Erik Ulman

...this recording is exceptional, even by the duo’s high standards...

Fans here and abroad have routinely come to expect impeccable work from the dynamic duo of Négyesy and Nykter, but this recording is exceptional, even by the duo’s high standards. Stimulated by an exacting–and rewarding–disparity among the seven compositions on the disc (six of them written by current or former UCSD composition students), this husband-and-wife team presents a remarkable display of both instrumental virtuosity and weighty musicality. Though the technical, conceptual, and interpersonal considerations that underlie these pieces run the gamut, each score effectively fosters a symbiosis between composers and performers. These successful collaborations make the entire disc very satisfying. The extreme examples of this phenomenon are, curiously, highlights of the record. Hans Otte’s “Seven Songs,” while conventional in technique, offer a quirky brand of understatement in structure; totaling just over twelve minutes, their delightfully misleading haiku-like simplicity provides opportunities galore for the performers to stretch their tasteful sensitivities to the interplay of balance and phrasing. Contrariwise, Rick Burkhardt’s “The Second Order,” the Lachenmannesque sound worlds (scratches, skips, and unusual percussive sounds) of which make similar issues of lyricism and dialogue too silly to sustain themselves, erects a considerable and intriguing force field to any such gauges of performance. The one violin’s altered tuning and the complex physicality of local extended techniques put the performers in different “zones,” despite the audibly cohesive textures. Naturally, Négyesy and Nykter milk this paradox, and what results is a luminous, deeply exciting theater of coincidence whose catalytic circularity is projected with necessary perfection. On all the tracks, Janos and Paivikki radiate the characteristically thoughtful finesse and refined concentration that is so often missing in music of this scope. For any listener who might like to complete the celebration, this CD is a gem.

— Christopher Williams

Program Notes

The violin duo has a long history as a genre, extending from at least as far back as the Baroque period to the present day. The duo has frequently served a pedagogical function, allowing teacher and pupil (or a pair of pupils) to experience the joys and challenges of ensemble playing under the simplest possible conditions. Occasionally, some compositions for violin duo have reached beyond the walls of the practice studio into the realm of high musical art. The collections by Mozart and Bartôk come readily to mind. It is in the spirit of the duo as high art form that the pieces on this recording have been created for the distinguished duo of János Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter. Far from being “practice pieces,” the works on this disc reach toward the outer limits of contemporary virtuoso writing for the violin.

Closest in spirit to the historical antecedents in this genre are the Seven Songs by Otte, which were inspired by Négyesy and Nykter’s recording of the Bartôk duos. Also remaining true to the history of violin duos as collections of miniatures, but at the opposite extreme stylistically, are Korneitchouk’s Short Circuits, of which two out of three volumes are presented here. These miniatures feature extreme discontinuity in their gestures, resembling in this respect Cage’s Freeman Etudes. They also challenge conventional notions of ensemble, with each player moving as if in his own orbit. Burkhardt’s The Second Order features a comparable variety of playing styles, but with a more readily apparent interaction between the parts.

The remaining works on the disc lie somewhere between Otte’s stylistic ties to European tradition and Korneitchouk and Burkhart’s Cageian delight in unusual means of sound production. Thompson’s Flexure presents a seamless interaction between the instruments, beginning with a Ligetian tangle of intertwining lines in non-coinciding rhythms and proceeding through a variety of perspectives on connectivity in curved spaces. Both Vérin’s Chassé-croisé and Carrick’s Masculin-Féminin, however, set the players off as opponents to one another. With a touch of wit, Carrick uses quarter-tone scordatura to represent the lack of accord between an ill-fated couple.

Greene’s To Look Within adds an element of theater by repositioning the second violin in each section of the piece, thus providing multiple perspectives on a grieving soul’s dialog with itself. Alternating between poignant resignation and anguished protest, this piece reaches beyond abstract compositional concerns in pursuit of poetic complexity. Like each of the works on this recording, it represents a transformation of the humble origins of the violin duo into “something rich and strange.” How fortunate it is for the composers that in Négyesy and Nykter they have found performers who are able to keep pace with the extremes of their creative imaginations.

Ronald Squibbs, PhD


János Négyesy was born in Budapest, Hungary, on September 13, 1938, and died on December 20, 2013. His father was taken by the Nazis to a concentration camp, from where he never returned. He got his first violin at the age of four, and only six months later, he gave his first public concert at his school. According to him, this was the moment when he decided to become a violinist. He later became a student of Ferenc Gábriel at the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music of Budapest. He introduced him to Tibor Varga, a former student of Gábriel before World War II. After receiving an invitation in 1965, Négyesy moved to Detmold and continued his studies with Varga. From 1970 to 1974, he served as concertmaster of the Radio Berlin Orchestra, which Lorin Maazel led at the time. In 1976 he was invited by French composer Pierre Boulez to IRCAM for a week of performances. This invitation resulted in a commission for Négyesy to write a book on violin techniques.

In 1979, while staying in Lisboa, he received a phone call at 3 a.m. asking him if he would join the Music Department at UCSD. Later it turned out that this call changed his life: as of 2012, he was an active teacher at UCSD. It was there in San Diego where he met Finnish violinist Päivikki Nykter, a former student of his, who became his wife in 1992. During the past decades, they made several recordings together, the complete violin duos of Béla Bartók and compositions dedicated to them, among others.

Numerous composers have dedicated pieces to Négyesy (probably the most notable is One6 by John Cage), including Attila Bozay, Carlos Fariñas, Vinko Globokar, Georg Hajdu, Robert Wittinger, Roger Reynolds, and Isang Yun. He also has notable recordings of pieces of composers like John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Kaija Saariaho.

A versatile recitalist and chamber musician, violinist Päivikki Nykter, is equally at home with standard repertoire as well as contemporary music. A native of Finland, she is a graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. Ms. Nykter served as an Artist-in-Residence at the University of California San Diego Music Department from 1994 to 2006. She is now a freelance violinist maintaining a busy concert schedule as well as teaching the Alexander Technique both in the US and Europe. Ms. Nykter is an artistic director of a Chamber Music Concert Series in Lappeenranta, Finland. She has recorded on Neuma, Aucourant, CRI, Old King Cole, Omega Editions, and Mode labels.


Be the first to review “Dedications to János Négyesy and Päivikki Nykter​ – Works for Two Violins”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related release:

Solo Violin Recital – János Négyesy – 2006

Including works by: Athanasia Tzanou, Alice Samter, Bun-Ching Lam, Marita Bolles, and Kaija Saariaho


Robert Scott Thompson

Vivid Air

Robert Scott Thompson


Robert Scott Thompson

Music for Strings

Robert Scott Thompson

Green Flash