| Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Rediscovered works for violin - volumes 1 and 2 (1878-1918)
Played by Marat Bisengaliev (violin) and Benjamin Frith (piano)
Romance Op. 1
Chanson de matin Op. 15 No. 2
Chanson de nuit Op. 15 No. 1
La Capricieuse Op. 17
Etude - Caprice (trans./arr. W H Reed)
In Hammersbach (from the Bavarian Highlands No.2)
Five Etudes Characteristiques for solo violin Op. 24
Marat Bisengaliev (violin)
Benjamin Frith (piano)
Recorded in St Michael’s Church, Highgate on 20/21 August 1998.
BLACK BOX BBM 1016 [67.57]
Elevation Op. 11 (trans. F Louis Schneider)
Pastourelle Op.4 No.2
Bavarian Dance No.3 (arr. William Henley)
Bavarian Dance No.1 (arr. William Henley)
Sospiri Op.70 (arr. Eirian Griffiths)
Petite Reine - Berceuse (Victor Beraud arr. Elgar)
Polonaise in D minor (edited by Christopher Polyblank)
Dreaming (arr. W H Reed)
Mot ’Amour Op.13 No.1
Valse on themes by Elgar (completed by Christopher Polyblank)
Interlude from the Crown of India Op.66 (arr. Hugh Blair)
Allegretto - Duet on a theme of GEDGE
Sonata for Violin and Piano Op.82
Marat Bisengaliev (violin)
Benjamin Frith (piano)
Recorded at Potton Hall, Suffolk on 17 and 18 October 2000.
BLACK BOX BBM 1047 [68. 35]
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These are two highly enjoyable discs. Entrusting our own Elgar to ‘one of the great virtuoso violinists produced by the famous Tchaikovsky Conservatoire in Moscow’ (in the view of Classical Music Magazine) was perhaps risky, but he is eminently suited to the style, particularly in the technically demanding moments, and, as if to reinforce his case, he was even appointed Musician in Residence for Worcestershire in 2000. No chicken at forty, we need to hear more of him. At the piano, Benjamin Frith has a well-deserved high reputation as a soloist and accompanist, and provides sterling work throughout this widely assorted music. Both discs are admirably recorded and a disparate array of styles and moods abound, much of it highly untypical of the stereotypical Elgar of Pomp and Circumstance. What is special about Bisengaliev’s playing is his capacity to dwell on the sentimental, dreamy moments while giving the more full-blooded numbers abundant measure of power and technical prowess. This he does with unashamed panache, in the mould of a bygone era, that of the end of the 19th century. Much of his success in his playing lies in his use of portamento, wide vibrato and rich tone, and nowhere does he take hostages to fortune. He also has an impeccable ear for fine-tuning his intonation. It really is as admirable and enjoyable as it sounds, especially with the added attraction of knowing that we are hearing Elgar’s own instrument and bow.
Elgar was a practising violinist, earning his living by playing and teaching the instrument in his early provincial days in Worcester. Like his contemporary Sibelius he got so far and no further. Neither was destined nor gifted enough to become a soloist, but both wrote superbly well for the instrument as a result of their inside knowledge. Elgar wrote not only the substantive concerto and sonata for the instrument, both of them fine works, but also many miniature works as we can see here, 34 tracks plus the sonata’s three movements. Despite the slightly misleading adjective ‘re-discovered’ in the title, which is hardly applicable to the two Chansons, Salut d’amour, May Song, Virelai, or the sonata itself, there are nice surprises awaiting the relatively uninformed listener, and, I suspect, even the hardened Elgarian aficionado. Most successful are the technically dazzling pieces, plenty of exotic, foreign flavours abound in the studies, caprices and the transcriptions of the two movements from the choral work ‘In the Bavarian Highlands’. Elgar’s sense of humour, and he certainly had one despite the gloom overshadowing the last 15 years or so, seems to shine through his violin music more than any other as well as charm and great beauty of melodic invention. They may not all be masterpieces, but they are certainly worth hearing. Others have had a hand in arrangements, transcriptions from Elgar’s friend Billy Reed to today’s Christopher Polyblank, but as devoted Elgarians, you would not be able to spot the seams. All highly enjoyable.
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