CD Review: ASCENT (Matthew Lipman, viola, Henry Kramer, piano, on Çedille Record

For years, violas and violists have been the butt of some truly funny jokes:

Q: How do you keep your violin from getting stolen?
A: Put it in a viola case.
Q: What’s the difference between a dead skunk and a crushed viola in the road?
A. Skid marks before the skunk.
Q: Why do so many people take an instant dislike to the viola?
A: It saves time. 

But you won’t be laughing at violist Matthew Lipman, although he engendered a huge grin from me because of his latest CD, a truly remarkable collection of premieres and other works for viola and piano. One listen and you’ll have a greater appreciation for this ridiculously maligned instrument.

Tony Frankel, Stage and Cinema
Mozart: Complete Violin Concertos; Sinfonia Concertante, review: 'endlessly fasc

In the Sinfonia concertante K364 she is partnered by the equally sensitive, again Chicago-born viola-player Matthew Lipman, still in his early 20s and gifted with poise and a warmth of timbre that ideally complement the allure of the set as a whole.

Geoffrey Norris, Daily Telegraph
Review: Recording of the Month

Pine is joined by Matthew Lipman in his first recording. Enormous credit to him that he proves to be such an equal partner. This is a thrilling and moving performance of a great work - the undoubted highlight of an already impressive set. Again, I love the way the performance is supported by the production to allow the genius of Mozart's inner part writing to register. The capricious interplay of the soloists is a joy to hear. Sometimes I worry that classical music has this image of serious-faced musicians playing "great" music in a rather sober and stilted way. Just hearing this performance you know with absolute certainty that there was real delight and pleasure in the studio the day they recorded this. It bursts from the speakers in the most life-affirming way. Playing music this well is fun as well as being profoundly moving.

The central Andante is a sublimely melancholy song-duet. Again pacing is perfection with the bass line gently urging the music forward. It is quite possible to invent one's own narrative for the dialogue between the two instruments: the violin questioning, the viola reassuring before they join in one of those heart-stopping intertwining passages that reinforces the notion that so much of Mozart's greatest music is vocal in character. The closing Presto throws off the doubts and preoccupations of the preceding movements and brings the entire set to an uplifting close. The two instruments are exceptionally well-matched. Pine's Guarneri 'del Gesu' to Lipman's Goffriller. Lipman's viola has a lighter tone than some which allows him to match Pine's quicksilver brilliance to great effect.

Nick Barnard, MusicWeb International
Lincoln Center players give neglected masterworks some love

The first played of the "Cypresses" – No. 5 in Dvorak's numbering – also caught the atmosphere of soft moonlight in the prominent viola playing of Lipman, who replaced the ailing Lawrence Power.

Alan G. Artner, Chicago Tribune
Dvorak, Schubert and a Sub

An intriguing debut marked the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s otherwise routine concert at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday afternoon. With the British violist Lawrence Power unable to make it to New York because of a fever, in stepped Matthew Lipman, 22, a Juilliard student who is scheduled to join the CMS Two program for young musicians, next year.

Without his keen grin, you would never have noticed his early appearance. Mr. Lipman, a restrained, elegant player, joined six other instrumentalists either on the society’s roster or alumni of it for an eclectic lineup of Ernest Chausson’s Piano Trio, Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet and two works by Dvorak.

David Allen, New York Times
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center delights the audience

The audience was surprised and delighted by the fresh, young Mr. Lipman. Although appearing to be a youth, he has already distinguished himself as viola soloist and in international competitions. Looking like a Botticelli angel, Mr. Lipman produced a beautiful, mature sound with exemplary ease and finesse. Clearly, Ms. Kavafian, whose protégé Mr. Lipman is, chose well and wisely for this concert. Especially considering the fact that Mr. Lipman had only days to integrate himself into the ensemble, this artist said to be still in his early twenties will surely be a force to reckon with in years to come.

Ralph Malachowski, Out in Jersey
A Concert of Two Works that were Rejected First and Embraced Later

Edward Gardner conducted the Juilliard Orchestra in an admirable performance of the wistful work at Alice Tully Hall, with Matthew Lipman, a Juilliard undergraduate, as soloist. Walton was influenced in this work by Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with its lyricism and spicy harmonies. There are also echoes of Hindemith in the fast second section: modernist touches that initially offended Tertis’s conservative sensibility. Mr. Lipman demonstrated a rich tone and elegant phrasing in the slow opening movement, with its elegiac, wandering melodies, and a fleet-fingered technique in the vivacious second movement.

Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
Review: Ars Viva orchestra shows why its director is a major force in area music

William Walton's Viola Concerto (1929), an ingratiatingly lyrical work that turns up in concert not nearly as often as it deserves, showed off the splendid technique and musical sensitivity that left the competition judges slack-jawed.

Playing this virtuoso piece from memory, Lipman produced a warm, burnished, singing tone on a 1700 Goffriller viola loaned by the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation. His firm command of rhythm gave the score's jazzy syncopations their dancing feet, his exchanges with various instruments keenly judged. He grinned broadly at the end when the audience awarded him a robust ovation. Mark well Matthew Lipman's name: You'll be hearing a lot more of him in the years to come.

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
Young violist’s debut sparks Ars Viva’s season finale

And the other was Matthew Lipman. Just turned 18, the violist is the first winner of the Music Institute of Chicago’s Young Artist Concerto and Aria Competition. The young man turned in his own hugely impressive performance Sunday in Skokie in what was, in essence, his professional debut, with Alan Heatherington and the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra.

As the loquacious conductor noted Sunday, it’s rare for a violist to best out three violinists and two cellists in a juried competition, but in his terrific account of Walton’s Viola Concerto, the young man from Crete-Monee High School showed he is the real thing.

Displaying the relaxed poise of a seasoned professional, Lipman showed himself fully in synch with the work’s shifting moods, encompassing the searching introspection of the opening Andante and tackling the mercurial middle section with fine clarity and rhythmic precision.

The myriad challenges of the central movement were surmounted with ease and technique to spare, Heatherington and the orchestra providing playing of whirlwind vivacity in support. The reflective nostalgia and edgy restlessness of the closing movement were surely and sensitively etched by Lipman as well.

One might quibble that some of the solo work could have used a bit more bite and intensity, but this was an auspicious debut by a young musician who clearly has the potential for a successful career. Matthew Lipman performed on a remarkable 1700 Gofriller instrument made available by the Rachel Elizabeth Barton Foundation.

Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
The Top 10 Performances of 2010

Most Impressive Debut

18-year-old Matthew Lipman’s remarkable professional debut in the Walton Viola Concerto with Alan Heatherington and Ars Viva.

Lawrence A. Johnson, Chicago Classical Review
Total: 10 (Viewing: 1–10)