12 July 2010

concerto italiano

The 'best of the best' of this recording begins with the violin concerto of Domenico Dall'Oglio, a virtuoso violinist & composer who spent decades in the musical service of the Russian imperial court. While the premier of this work shows he is thematically under the spell of Vivaldi, he departs from "the Red Priest" within each movement, giving Carmiognola a broad framework of personal music that is challenging and beautiful, especially both Allegro movements, that allow Carmignola to bring on bowed fireworks within the stately nature of the concerto, using the composer's own cadenzas. The prolific composer Michele Stratico was educated in Padua, Italy, becoming a musical associate of the famed Guiseppe Tartini. His "g-moll en sol mineur" concerto is a work of elegance and grace, unpublished during his lifetime, especially the Grave and the sparkling Allegro Assai third movement with its arresting double stops, surprise false ending, and crucial VBO support. Nardini's soaring Violin Concerto in G major is beautiful and charming, especially the Adagio movement. While of high quality, this concerto is not up to the standard of the other two premiers. Nardini demonstrates instead his capacity to write beautiful themes and orchestrations, which obviously inspire Carmignola's arabesques and cadenzas. For the icing on the cake, Carmignola includes sizzling performances of concertos by Antonio Lolli and, for some, a bonus one-movement Rondo Allegro by Giornovichi. These transitional period Italian concertos are wonderful performances by Giuliano Carmignola, Andrea Marcon and the VBO making this a very special 2010 recording. Hats off to repertoire consultant/editor Olivier Fourés whose musical forensics took him from California to Japan to Europe. Highly Recommended! Five ILLUMINATING Stars.

Li Chuanyun

Exhilarating violin masterpieces against the Hong Kong skyline. Li Chuanyun plays the supreme tests of artistry for any violinists - Paganini's 24 Caprices for solo violin and unaccompanied sonatas by Bach and Ysaÿe - at the 55th floor of Two IFC.

Li won the first prize of the Fifth Wieniawski International Youth Violin Competition when he was 11, and has given recitals and played with leading orchestras since, including the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Valery Gergiev and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Neeme Järvi.

wienawski violin concerto

Good violin music and good music are not always the same thing, and Wieniawski's violin works are a case in point. Though extremely effectively written for the soloists, in most other departments--orchestration, melodic interest, formal ingenuity--they remain distinctly second-rate, which may be why they seem to have fallen out of favor recently. Given great fiddling, however, they can be made to sound like great music, and Gil Shaham is unquestionably a great fiddler. He glides through the quick music with the ease of an Olympic bobsled champion, and injects real soul into Wieniawski's meditative moments. Sarasate's works offer many of the same strengths and weaknesses as Wieniawski's, and Shaham dispatches the music's numerous technical challenges with similar boldness and zest. There's always room in the catalog for playing that is this accomplished.

Janine Jansen Beethoven Violin concerto

This is one of the most remarkable Beethoven Concertos I've heard. Järvi's conducting is the most intense and dramatic I've EVER heard, and that includes Harnoncourt's. In accordance with prevalent HIP custom, his tempos are swift - but no more than Harnoncourt's (and, in the finale, well within a norm established long ago by Szigeti-Walter) - and his rubato limited, but there is enough drama for them not to seem pressed. His trumpets blare like percussion, his timpanis pound (the opening timp sounds more like a call to battle than the soft ushering in we are used to), his woodwinds crisp, his accents always forceful. Yes, they do relate to sf and sfp written by Beethoven in the score, only he whips them up more than we are accustomed to hearing. But I will grant that I counted four, between 9:35 and 9:39 in the first movement, that are NOT from Beethoven. With his highly intense conducting, Järvi also unearths details that I saw in the score but never heard: in the first tutti at 1:17, horns play legato quarter note values but trumpets play snappy eighth-notes like the timp thuds: and for the first time I've heard it here.

Is that too dramatic and forceful for Beethoven's essentially lyrical Concerto? I can understand that some would find so. But I don't stick with the notion that Beethoven's VC is an "essentially lyrical" composition; like its composer, it is Janus-faced: heroic/dramatic AND lyrical. I love the raging energy brought to it by Järvi.

And Jansen? She is emphatically NOT the meek and demure fiddler that some of the previous reviews led me to expect. What she has to say she drives home with plenty of authority and fire, always beautiful tone, and a remarkable attention to Beethoven's minuscule details of articulation: try for instance her staccato playing between 11:12 and 11:36 in the first movement. I don't think I've ever heard such a precise rendition of what Beethoven wrote. And what's that thing with a purported contradiction between her use of vibrato and the orchestra's vibrato-less playing? When she uses it her vibrato is never obtrusive, and then - listen again, and tell me if, at 10:35 and again at 11:52 in the first movement, she is using vibrato? She's not, and there is no "contradiction".

Janine Jansen Beethoven

Dutch violin star Janine Jansen brings together the great concerto by Beethoven and the rarely heard concerto by Benjamin Britten - Acclaimed Dutch violinist Janine Jansen fulfills a long-held ambition to record Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto alongside the monumental Beethoven Violin Concerto. According to Janine, these are "two of the greatest concertos ever written." Janine has championed the Britten Concerto since she first played it nearly ten years ago. The work, composed while Britten was in his 20s and his first complete composition after arriving in the US in 1939, features both technically brilliant and elegantly lyrical elements. "Whenever a violin repertory piece needs revitalizing, there's one simple solution. Hire Janine Jansen to play it." --The Times, London Janine pairs this 20th-century work with the Beethoven Concerto and brings a similarly new perspective to the work. The recording of the Beethoven follows the acclaimed Beethoven Symphony cycle from the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen under Paavo Järvi.

My short take: if you want your music to push you around, this Beethoven isn't it. If you are willing to step into the circle, stand by Ms. Jansen on the stage as she plays, and let the notes rise up inside you, you will marvel at the Beethoven. In either case, the Britten should just tear you up.

A longer account:

The wonder of music is that we can not only take it in differently, as we do novels and paintings, but that performers can reveal it to us from different directions. I grew up with Jascha Heifetz' recordings of everything violin. I managed classical music stations in Boston and New York City for a dozen years. And the musical presentation I respond to has evolved. Though I'm twice her age, Janine Jansen's interpretations are immensely satisfying for me.

Heifetz was of that generation which hurled the music at you. The performer was a god and you were commanded "Hear!" and "Feel that!" As a young man, all in love with minor keys and outer drama, I loved it, and still do. Jansen's is a different approach. She's from a family of musicians. This is the family business, and like old J.S. Bach, she just pulls it up from her roots.

I first recognized her approach when she did the great Schubert C major Quintet with the group Spectrum Concerts Berlin. (You can find her on many of their Naxos recordings doing wonderful chamber music.) As an adviser to Spectrum I sat in on the rehearsals and thought that they were rather tentative. Then in the splendid thousand seat in-the-round chamber hall of Berlin's Philharmonie I found that I was being invited into a circle of friends, musicians all of us, who had gathered to open up something wonderful that our dear Franz had left behind for us. There were no imperatives -- Hear! Feel! Who needed them? Rather we were all listening from a personal depth. There was no effort to tell us what to think and feel, just an exploration that was so fine, so appreciative, that I felt like I had been Schubert's friend. It was a very powerful experience.

Similarly, this Beethoven concerto is not about how the piece can overwhelm us, but about the genius of Beethoven in putting his talent and his life into it. It's a meditative interpretation, even, with no effort at effects, just a constant surface tension beneath which are genuine depths. If you can really sit and listen in, you will find layers of shellac stripped away, so to speak.

The Britten concerto is a work of great introspection already, written at a truly ghastly moment in modern civilization. Britten, a pacifist, was living in the USA in 1940 while Hitler was preparing to crush the mainland of Europe. The scars of the Spanish Civil War were fresh, and Jansen has picked up on that background. The concerto is wonderfully free and imaginative, reflective and passionately engaged. I feel it as a great English follow-through on the line of musical creation pioneered by Mahler, in which the deep sentiment of Elgar is further refined in grief. And yet this was when Britten was forming his life partnership with Peter Pears, so that there are private hopes and joys involved here, too. Jansen and the orchestra share a real masterpiece with us, and the further you can open yourself to it, the more its tender love and tragedy will move you.

We are blessed with many fine violinists, on stage and in their recordings. Though her label has to promote a certain aura of the diva, Janine Jansen is not really about that. She is a great musician, both young and mature, who treats her audience as fellow musicians, exploring together just what it means to be human. She can do fireworks, easily, but when she does, it always really means something.

Gil Shaham

Until a week ago I would have said that this is the finest version of The Four Seasons ever recorded. Shaham's approach is much like we used to hear from Jacqueline du Pre. Ferocious, full of intelligence and virtuosity, and with great love for the music. The disc is miked very close to his violin and the slightest growl and touch is clearly visable in this most dramatic of recordings. Now how could I not rate it the greatest recording of this music? Easy, I just bought Guiliano Carmignola's version on original instruments (which I usually don't care for) and it may be as perfect as any recording ever made...in every way. I have to say that If you truly love this music you must own both versions. Life is short, just bite the bullet and own them both. You won't regret it!

Nathan Milstein

is still considered to be the greatest performer of the unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas written by Bach.
While this is certainly true, it is only a part of his musical personality, his extraordinary art and the wide range of his interpretations. His repertory extends far beyond the works of Bach and his style and playing are as fascinating as ever. Happy may be those who had the chance to hear Milstein on stage in his concerts. They were witnesses of intensity and mastership, indelible musical experiences.