Christian Wolff


mode 126

Complete Works For Violin & Piano


mode 126 Christian WOLFF, Vol. 5: Pebbles (written for Sabat/Clarke); Duo for Violinist and Pianist (2 versions) – Sabat/Clarke Duo. Composer supervised recordings

In stock

Complete Works For Violin & Piano

1. Pebbles (1999)   (35:51)
     written for Sabat/Clarke
     first recording

Download the MP3 sample (1.7MB)

2 & 3. Duo for Violinist and Pianist (1961)   (17:19 & 5:55)
     two live, unedited performances

Download the MP3 sample (2MB)

Marc Sabat, violin
Stephen Clarke, piano

Composer supervised recordings

Christian Wolff’s works for violin and piano were written for specific performers, with their sound and musical character in mind during the composition of the works.

This disc collects all of Wolff’s works for violin and piano for the first time. The composer attended the recording sessions.

Duo for Violinist and Pianist (written for Kenji Kobayashi and David Tudor) is made of structural parts which are flexible, repeatable and whose sequences are determined by cues – a particular sound or length of silence – which, as the player reaches the end of structural part determines what should be played next.  There is no fixed score relating the two instruments, so each performance will be different. Two contrasting performances are presented here, each recorded in one take.

Pebbles was written for Sabat/Clarke. This long work has 24 sections which can be thought of as a collection of poems in a cycle. Some of the material is drawn from folk songs and built around explicit, melodic lines.

These audiophile recordings were made in high resolution 24-bit sound.

The Canadian duo Sabat/Clarke are both active composers and performers of contemporary music. They have been playing together since 1996. Their recording of Feldman’s Complete Works for Violin & Piano (mode 82/83) received unanimous, enthusiastic acclaim.

Liner notes are by Christian Wolff.


Christian Wolff
Complete Works for Violin and Piano

Mode 126

From the 1950s to now, much of Christian Wolff’s delicate and undemonstrative music has been fashioned as opportunities for variable interaction between the performers, who must make choices that affect their musical relationship as well as shape the composition itself. In the notes to this release he suggests that the Duo For Violinist and Pianist (1961) becomes a conversation, as each instrumentalist follows their own chart of possible events that ultimately influence, but cannot totally control, one another. That the two versions played by The Sabat/Clarke Duo (nearly six and more than 17 minutes long, respectively) share the same mood and character – sparse, vivid remarks in a tense environment – confirms the composer’s presence amid the unpredictable proceedings. In the more expansive, more thoroughly notated Pebbles (1999), the instruments converse in whispers and forthright statements, at times interrupting and continuing the other’s point, and occasionally agreeing to sing together. Their material, from simple diatonic fragments of unrecognizable folk songs to small, jagged chromatic comments, may be biting or poignant but it’s the commitment of the performers that counts.
— Art Lange, The Wire, December 2003

Christian Wolff
Complete Works for Violin and Piano

Mode 126

Mode’s Christian Wolff edition has now reached Volume 5, though Complete Works for Violin and Piano sounds rather grand considering there are, in fact, only two of them: 1961’s “Duo for Violinist and Pianist” and 1999’s “Pebbles”. This latter was written for Marc Sabat and Stephen Clarke (who perform it here), and is for the most part fully notated and precisely coordinated, though the musicians are periodically required to proceed independently, and the duration of pauses is often left to the performers’ discretion. There’s a certain austerity to its two-part counterpoint and, from time to time, a rather old-fashioned motoric chugging to its rhythmic regularity, but it sustains its 35-minute duration without flagging. Curiously, the earlier “Duo” – heard here in two extremely different versions, one seventeen minutes long, the other less than six – sounds more abstract, more “modern”, as it were: while “Pebbles” makes no use of so-called extended techniques, the surface of the 1961 piece is peppered with odd abrasive scrapes, unconventional bowing effects and occasional leaps into the bowels of the piano. As my ancient vinyl recording of the work performed by its original dedicatees Kenjo Kobayashi and David Tudor is showing its age rather badly, I’m delighted to see this fine new CD out and about.
— Dan Warburton,,
     October 2003



Also by Christian Wolff on Mode Records:
Vol. 1: The Piano Works 1976-83 performed by Sally Pinkas (mode 43)
Vol. 2: “I Like to Think of Harriet Tubman” performed by The Barton
            Workshop (mode 69)
Vol. 3: Tilbury Pieces (complete) Snowdrop (mode 74)
Vol. 4: Look She Said: Complete Works for Bass (mode 109)
Vol. 6: (Re):Making Music (mode 133/134)
Vol 7: Incidental Music & Keyboard Miscellany (286/287, 2-CDs)

Stephen Clarke on Mode:
Giacinto Scelsi: The Piano Works 2 (mode 143)

Sabat/Clarke Duo profile

Christian Wolff profile