Gidon Kremer has again recorded the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin of Bach and while his facility and technical grace are intact, in this recording he appears to have been deeply influenced by his time with the moderns (Adams, Pärt, Schnittke, Piazzola, Glass, et al). For this listener it seems that studying and performing these contemporary composers' manipulation of sound and instrumental scope has enriched Kremer's thought about the perfection of Bach. Not everyone will agree with Kremer's approach to these works on this new recording, but for those who know Bach's solo violin pieces there are pleasures in store. Remaining technically suave and with a luxuriant tone, Kremer seems to be communicating with the psychological Bach, offering different tempi and more soulful approaches than those of his colleagues. The results are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.
'Capriccio' sees French violinist Renaud Capuçon, now in his early 30s, paying tribute to legendary violinists of the 20th century, including Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein and Menuhin. This appetising selection of short pieces – virtuosic and lyrical, original compositions, transcriptions and arrangements – demonstrates the captivating charm the violin can exert.
Antonin Dvorák's Piano Quartet No. 2 is one of the greatest chamber works of the 19th century (as are many of Dvorák's chamber compositions). Written in 1889 at the request of his publisher Simrock, it is a big, bold work filled with the Czech master's trademark melodic fecundity, harmonic richness, and rhythmic vitality. The first movement is a soaring, outdoor allegro with an assertively optimistic main theme accented by Czech contours and Dvorák's love of mixing major and minor modes. The Lento movement's wistful main theme is played with a perfect mixture of passion and poise by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The music alternates between passages of drama and delicacy in this, one of Dvorák's finest slow movements in any medium. The Scherzo's stately waltz is contrasted by a lively, up-tempo Czech country dance. The finale is a high-stepping, high-spirited allegro with a strong rhythmic pulse that relaxes for the beautifully lyrical second subject. The development is a satisfying combination of motivic variety and strict structural logic. Dvorák packs a lot of music into this movement that lasts less than seven minutes. Ma and colleagues Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, and Emanuel Ax bring the same excitement, virtuosity, and cohesiveness to this work as they did in their recordings of the Brahms piano quartets.
Respighi’s orchestral music is loved for its lavish, operatic ‘fireworks’, its pomp and circumstance. This recording of his music for violin and piano demonstrates a more tender and intimate side to the composer, and also shows what a master he was of melody. Respighi had many influences from all over Europe and an enthusiasm for German music which perhaps explains the pleasing echoes of Brahms and Schumann among others. The sonatas, especially the later in B minor, are important works of nineteenth-century chamber music, and gems such as the Valse caressante and the Serenata are suffused with lyrical elegance which is perfectly carried off by the wonderful violinist Tanja Becker-Bender.
Growing up in his native Dublin in the 1850s and ‘60s, Stanford was no stranger to high-quality chamber music, even if the visits to Ireland’s capital by pre-eminent executants of the genre were sporadic. As a teenager he recalled with some affection and excitement the solo recitals of Anton Rubinstein, Sigismond Thalberg and Charles Hallé, and string players such as Camillo Sivori, Ludwig Straus, Henry Vieuxtemps, Alfredo Piatti and of course Joseph Joachim, a friend of his father. Hearing Joachim play Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata and unaccompanied Bach at semi-private concerts left a deep impression on Stanford (himself a budding violinist), as did Joachim’s appearances as the leader of Levey’s (his tutor’s) quartet. As a result of these formative experiences, Stanford became a devotee of chamber music.
Admired by Schoenberg (who described him as ‘one of the most underestimated of modern composers’), Joseph Achron was a boundary defying violinist-composer of extraordinary gifts. He drew on his Jewish faith to profound effect, from the early influence of his cantor father to his enthusiastic championing of the Society for Jewish Folk Music (which did for Jewish music what Bartók did for Eastern European folk culture). It’s hardly surprising that much of Achron’s music is for violin—he was a consummate player himself and a prolific recitalist.
Finland's Jean Sibelius is perhaps the most important composer associated with nationalism in music and one of the most influential in the development of the symphony and symphonic poem. But he wrote also a lot of chamber music. This 6th volume of the complete BIS-edition of his works concentrates on works for Violin and Piano.
Lydia Mordkovitch performs a personal selection of violin and viola works, chosen for their idiom which combines brilliant violin technique and strong expressivity and the theme of Russia. This album has been generously supported by the Royal Academy of Music and is the first time Lydia has recorded a viola performance for Chandos.
Violinist Tim Fain has worked extensively with minimalist composer Philip Glass in performances and in the preparation of new pieces, and the most impressive result of their collaboration may be the Partita for solo violin (2010), a seven-movement suite written especially for Fain. Associations with Johann Sebastian Bach's violin partitas are inevitable, and it's clear that Glass has had them in mind while composing in what can be described as an aspirational, rather than a merely imitative, manner. Glass has for the most part avoided his customary ostinatos and static sections, and his use of broken chords only suggests counterpoint, rather than propulsive rhythmic patterns. He has also eschewed any direct references to Bach or Baroque style, yet the Partita's kinship with the older models is certainly felt, and Fain's playing has a lot to do with it. The ebb and flow of tempos and the expressive use of rubato give the Partita an introspective feeling, and the freedom of individual expression is quite removed from the locked-in, high-energy ensemble playing that was Glass' early trademark style.