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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Sonata No. 2 for violin and piano in D, Op. 94a [24:10]
Eugène YSAüE (1858-1931)

Sonata No. 3 in d minor "Ballade" for unaccompanied violin, Op. 27, no. 3 [6:59]
Ernest CHAUSSON (1855-1899)

Poème, op. 25 [14:41]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Sonata for violin and piano no. 1 in d minor, op. 75 [23:51]
Jack Liebeck, violin
Katya Apekisheva, piano
Rec. Wathen Hall, St. Paulís School, England, 25 May, 2 July 2003. DDD
QUARTZ QTZ 2002 [70:00]

In a program that for a young artist might be dangerously familiar, the good folk at Quartz records have unveiled a major and, at the risk of hyperbole, astounding new talent in the person of Jack Liebeck. With cool self-assurance, technique to burn and a musical sense that belies the artistís youth, we are presented with a recital of technically and emotionally demanding masterworks that easily measure up to world-class standards.

Mr. Liebeck begins his recital with the most challenging work, the haunting second sonata of Prokofiev. Having begun life as work for flute, Prokofiev composed this sonata during a time in which prominent artists were evacuated from Moscow for safety during the Second World War. At the suggestion of David Oistrakh, the composer reworked a few passages making it suitable for the violin, and it is in this guise that it is best known today. Opening with a lyrical wintry theme, the second movement is a folksy rollicking scherzo, a second lyrical movement follows and the work closes with a finger-busting finale. Mr. Liebeck shifts from mood to mood and scene to scene with breathtaking ease, spinning the long melodic lines with the grace of a fine singer, and ripping into the strings with youthful abandon where called for.

Next up is the fiendish "Ballade" for unaccompanied violin of Ysaÿe. Liebeck pours heart and soul into this rendition, cruising through the treacherous double stops and virtuoso scale passages with the confidence that only fearless youth can produce. Spotless intonation and a massive dose of good taste make this showpiece into an unforgettable musical experience. Never over the top or damaged by histrionics, Mr. Liebeck avoids getting carried away with displays of technical prowess; rather he uses his massive command of his instrument to the service of the music. How refreshing.

The Chausson Poème, when in the wrong hands can easily slip into syrupy sentimentality. Thankfully, Mr. Liebeck again shows his good taste by presenting this lovely gem in an ideal setting.

Saint-Saëns, although certainly an able craftsman, has never had much of a reputation for great profundity. This sonata is quite well written and idiomatic, but lacks the depth of the Prokofiev work heard earlier in the program. Mr. Liebeck, however, demonstrates that he is able to find something pertinent to say regardless of the repertoire, and gives a most convincing and indeed enjoyable performance here to round out what is by any judgment a superb recital.

Ably partnered by the pianist Katya Apekisheva, this is obviously a pair of musicians who understand each other well, and have formed a fine team. Production values in this the first recording from Quartz to have graced my stereo, are excellent, although I found the minuscule typeface a bit of a challenge to read at times. Program notes are brief but acceptable, sound quality is of the first order. The handsome Mr. Liebeck is well represented in the booklet photographs, giving both the image of confidence and of a disarming friendliness. Look out Josh Bell; you have competition on a number of fronts!

Brilliant performances. Recommended without a momentís hesitation.

Kevin Sutton

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