'Drawing on archival performance footage and interviews, The Art of Violin evokes the vast panorama of the world of the violin in the 20th century and its most outstanding performers. ….it is hard to express the explosions of joy occasioned by the discovery of long sought-out but undreamed-of archives, such as some silent - and later resynchronised - film footage, or the few brief moments of Chausson's Poème played by Ginette Neveu, the silent yet moving (in every sense of the word) images of Kreisler and Ysaÿe, the awe of a young Menuhin, the superb single camera shot of David Oistrakh performing the cadenza from Shostakovich's First Concerto.'
Although Korngold’s ‘complete works for violin and piano’ make up a reasonably full disc, it is only fair to point out that the Violin Sonata is the single work that is not an arrangement from one of his other pieces. Yet this Sonata, written at the age of 15 for Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel no less, is a fine example of his early style, with its echoes of Zemlinsky and early Schoenberg. The young Dutch violinist Sonja van Beek and German pianist Andreas Frölich negotiate its challenges with ease: as in Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata, the pianist has as tough a role as the melody instrument. Much Ado about Nothing is one of several arrangements of a suite of four movements derived from incidental music to Shakespeare’s play written in 1918, performed here with affection and a silken suavity. The remainder of the repertoire is made up of arrangements of Korngold lollipops, hit numbers from his operas, such as the unforgettable ‘Marietta’s Lied’ from Die tote Stadt, arranged by the composer as salon pieces and popularised by Kreisler and his ilk.
The six Sonatas for solo violin of Eugène Ysaÿe are essential works in his catalog, inspired by the sonatas and partitas of J.S. Bach, and composed as a tribute to the violinists Joseph Szigeti, Jacques Thibaud, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler, Mathieu Crickboom, and Manuel Quiroga. These pieces suggest a Janus-like combination of retrospection and the avant-garde, hearkening to the past through allusive figurations and direct quotations (e.g., references in the Sonata No. 2 to Bach's Partita No. 3 and the Dies Irae), but looking to the future in the use of extended violin techniques and novel sonorities. Alina Ibragimova's 2015 release on Hyperion is an absorbing performance, concentrated in tone and accomplished in technique, yet wonderfully ambiguous in expression, in keeping with Ysaÿe's quirky mix of playfulness and high-minded seriousness. Recorded in the concert hall of Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, in May 2014, Ibragimova has great clarity and presence, and the acoustics provide enough resonance to soften the violin's sometimes overly rosinous sound.
Eugène Ysaÿe's Opus 27 Sonatas are incredible, unjustly neglected pieces from the canon of major works for solo violin. They demand transcendental virtuosity to bring them off, and a magician of Oscar Shumsky's calibre to breathe life into their bones. Each sonata has a clear identity, reflecting Ysaÿe's success in defining the musical characteristics of the several friends and dedicatees - Szigeti, Thibaud, Kreisler, Enesco, Crickboom and Quiroga. Shumsky uses his own powerful personality to enrich these performances, unmistakeably demonstrating his kinship with these great artists of the past, and produces an absorbtion with his task that is only rarely achieved in the recording studio.
This recording is the logical – and awaited – complement to the ‘Fugue for Solo Violin’ set released in the spring of 2013, on the occasion of the publication of Tedi Papavrami’s autobiography by Robert Laffont. It features the Sonatas for solo violin by Eugène Ysaÿe, an extraordinary violinist who, in his time, played a role comparable to that of Niccolò Paganini, just a century earlier. Ysaÿe dedicated each of these six sonatas to one of the very great violinists of his time (Szigeti, Thibaud, Enesco, Kreisler…). They constitute heights of virtuosity that few musicians can envisage confronting and are, at the same time, musical works of the first rank.
A documentary film by Bruno Monsaingeon devoted to the 20th century's greatest violinists, The Art of Violin really cannot be faulted. The same, incidentally, can also be said of the similar volumes that cover the piano and singing, so there's never been a better time to collect a personal audio-visual archive of some wonderful historical performers. The added dimension provided by the painstakingly collected film material (here featuring no fewer than 20 outstanding soloists Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, David Oistrakh, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and Eugene Ysaye) is of exceptional value when observing violin technique, and the diversity of approaches presented here in loving detail is in itself a subject for endless comparison.
The young Danish violinist Nikolaj Znaider and Sir Colin Davis conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden have celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first performance of Edward Elgar's Violin Concerto in b minor, opus 61, with this outstanding new recording of Elgar's masterwork on RCA Red Seal. Znaidler also has taken the concerto on tour. He has performed it live during 2010 in, among other places, Washington D.C. under the direction of Leonard Slatkin, Boston, and Milwaukee. Fritz Kreisler gave the first performance of the concerto in 1910 with Elgar conducting. In this recording, Znaider performs on the 1741 Guarnerius violin that Kreisler used during the 1910 premiere.
'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.