Sarah and Deborah Nemtanu, the Franco- Romanian violinist sisters have recorded the 44 violin duos by Béla Bartók, Bartók 44 Duos, on the Decca label, due for digital release on January 8, 2016.
Bartók’s Forty-Four Duos for two violins had their origins in his work as a folksong collector. In the early 1900s he travelled throughout his native Hungary and elsewhere in Eastern Europe in search of traditional melodies. Bartók and his friend Zoltán Kodály notated the songs and dances of peasant communities soon to be scattered or destroyed by two world wars. When Bartók composed his Forty-Four Duos in 1931, he mined his rich stock of Hungarian, Slovakian, Romanian, Ruthenian, Ukrainian and Algerian folk tunes for source material. Bartók 44 Duos sees the sibling violinists draw deep from their cultural roots to express the passion and energy of works inspired by Eastern European and Arabian folk song and dance.
Each of Bartók’s duos is based almost entirely on an existing folk melody, either collected by Bartók or by other expert ethnographers. The complete set, contained in four books, opens with a Matchmaking Song and includes evocatively titled works like Teasing Song, Limping Dance, Mosquito Dance and Romanian Whirling Song. These works enter the Universal Classics catalogue for the first time with the Nemtanu sisters’ recording.
Sarah Nemtanu was born in 1981 and her sister Deborah, followed two years later. They began their violin studies with their father Vladimir who was first violinist with the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. They both progressed to the Conservatoire regional influence of Bordeaux and the National Conservatory of Music in Paris where they studied with Gérard Poulet.
In 2005, Deborah was appointed concertmaster of the Ensemble orchestral de Paris. From 2002, Sarah has been co-concertmaster of the Orchestre National de France, with whom she also performed as a soloist. In 2009, she played the role of the violin soloist in Radu Mihaileanu’s film Le concert performing the Violin Concerto by Tchaikovsky.
The sisters say they have been playing Bartók’s duos from when they were 5 and 7 years old. Written in graded levels of difficulty for students, Deborah says ” Being sisters adds something a little bit magical….We feel something miraculous when we play together because when we play together there is an alchemy and much happiness.”