Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Viennese Rhapsody:

- Tango, Op165 No. 2;
- Slavonic Dances: B78: No 2 in E minor; B145: No 2 in E minor; Falla/Kreisler - La vida breve - Danse espagnole;
Andaluza, Op 37 No 5;
- Caprice Viennois, Op 2. Tambourin chinois, Op 3. Berceuse romantique, Op 9. Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta. Zigeuner-capriccio. La gitana. Polichinelle. Aucassin and Nicolette. Liebesleid. Liebesfreud. Slavonic Fantasie.
Lotus Land, Op47 No 1
Etude-Caprice Op l8 No 4.
Leonidas Kavakos (vn), Peter Nagy (pf)
Recorded 2000
BIS CD 1196 DDD [74.06]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

The story is well known how Kreisler played many of the short works he used as encores in his concerts as being unknown works of almost unknown composers, only later in life admitting that they were his own compositions. Kreisler was, without doubt, the most famous and admired violinist of the first part of the twentieth century. His compositions are justly popular and any recording has to answer the question 'what has this to offer over Kreisler's own recordings?' (which are available in quite acceptable sound). At this test most new versions stumble and I was intrigued to see how this new recording fared.

The new BIS recording is presented with a not particularly attractive cover picture, but there are excellent notes by Horst A. Scholz.

First impressions of excellent lively performances were confirmed by detailed listening and careful comparisons of some items with original recordings by Kreisler. The violin tone is excellent throughout, the performances and sound remarkably like those of the composer in their warmth and elegance. Perhaps even more importantly in this music, like Kreisler, Kavakos is a master of phrasing and of subtleties of rhythm. However these performances are not just carbon copies of Kreisler but tend to be played marginally slower, giving a slightly cooler melancholy where appropriate. Peter Nagy's accompaniment is exemplary throughout and the recording is superb.

The programme opens with the seldom played Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta, which provides the name of the recording. This illustrates Kavakos' mastery of the Viennese waltz tradition and has a marvellous bitter-sweet feeling. Kreisler was clearly fascinated by music in the Spanish idiom and his arrangements of pieces by Albéniz, Falla and Granados are played exceptionally well. The arrangement of Cyril Scott's Lotus Land with its Far Eastern flavour is played with exceptionally haunting beauty. The Dvorak arrangements, especially the Slavonic Fantasy, are very interesting and more substantial than many of the works played here (but I do wish that the famous arrangement of Humoresque had been included). Rightly Kreisler's original compositions dominate the disc and demonstrate what a wide range of music he wrote; only Zigeuner-Capriccio is longer (just) than five minutes, but what a lot of little gems are presented for our delectation.

A major strength of the disc is the order of presentation. With this kind of music it is easy to play too many short works of the same style which becomes wearisome. Here however the music is presented as a well planned recital and it can be played right through in one sitting with enjoyment. This disc gives enormous pleasure and is a genuine alternative to Kreisler's own performances.

Arthur Baker

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