Attractive though the
programme seems, a number of things
conspire against it. Firstly the venue
and recording together produce a rather
airless and clinical acoustic. Together
this works against violinist Frank Almond
whose endemically tense vibrato is made
to sound even more so. It means that
light and shade are badly missing and
the ear gets progressively more tired.
It’s unfortunate that Almond and Wolfram,
two good musicians, are the unlucky
recipients of these problems but even
do I would have struggled to recommend
The reading of the
Respighi is rather unvarnished – except
for some rather doubtful moments of
excessive emoting early on from Almond.
Phrasing is insufficiently coloured
and contoured. Wolfram really digs into
the Passacaglia but Almond’s wary entrance
tends to dissipate tension and things
rarely catch fire. Players as diverse
as Shumsky, Suk, Rosand and Heifetz
have all brought a rich array of tone
colours and perspectives to this work
and brought it joyously to life.
in the Janáček. Here the jagged
folkloric elements are underplayed in
favour of a slightly sentimentalised
approach. I enjoyed the resinous attacks
in the finale – here they really do
play with drama and drive – but
the echo effects aren’t right and the
sonata doesn’t quite hang together.
Suk and Panenka are the obvious source
of comparison but non-Czech partnerships
have shown mastery here as well.
The Strauss, given
the foregoing, probably receives the
best playing. True there’s little of
the classic lift and ardour of a Neveu
here but nor is there the rather withdrawn
and limp kind of playing that this sonata
has called forth recently (no names).
I can’t say that there is really much
in the way of sensuous or romantic projection
but I’d wager Almond has listened to
a classic performance; I detect Heifetz
slides in the first movement.
Of the two players
it’s Wolfram who emerges as the one
with the greater personality but even
he is thwarted by the recording. This
is a feature that rather did for the
last recording of theirs that I heard,
the Brahms sonatas on Boolean http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2006/Feb06/Brahms_BOOLEAN001_CDA1651-2.htm
I’m afraid the Almond-Wolfram duo and
their unfortunate recording venues continue
to frustrate me.