Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Thaïs: Méditation (1)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Romance no.1 in G, op.40, Romance no.2 in F, op.50 (2)
Liebesfreud, Liebesleid, Schön Rosmarin (3)
Capricci, op.1: 6, 17, 1, 9, 24 (4), Violin Concerto no.2 in b, op.7: Finale - "La Campanella" (5)

Giuseppe, TARTINI arr. Kreisler
Sonata in g, op.1/4 - "The Devil's Trill (6)
Johann Sebastian BACH
Partita in d, BWV 1004: Chaconne (7)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Sonata in F, op.24 - "Spring" (8)
Sonata in A (9)
Maurice RAVEL
Tzigane (10)
VIOLINISTS: Salvatore Accardo (4, 5), Arthur Grumiaux (3, 6), Kennedy (1), Gidon Kremer (8), David Oistrakh (2), Itzhak Perlman (9), Gil Shaham (10), Henryk Szeryng (7)
PIANISTS: Martha Argerich (8), Vladimir Ashkenazy (9), Riccardo Castagnone (6), István Hajdu (3), Gerhard Oppitz (10)
ORCHESTRAS: London Philharmonic Orchestra (5), National Philharmonia Orchestra (1), Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (2)
CONDUCTORS: Richard Bonynge (1), Charles Dutoit (5), Sir Eugene Goossens (2)
DG PANORAMA 469 235-2 [2 CDs 71.36+76.09]
Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS

A brief but to-the-point introduction to the development of the violin and its music, plus a chronological line, give way to the more listener-friendly sequence listed above. The first disc is divided evenly between the violin at its most sweetly soothing and its scope for fiendish virtuosity, the second gives us four substantial, well-contrasted pieces. A progression from easy listening to real exploration and appreciation, and the listener who wishes to take that step and has a predilection for the violin may find this collection really helpful.

Poor performances would have rendered the exercise vain, but here we have some of the finest violinists of the recent past and present. Perhaps Shaham and Oppitz try too hard with the Ravel Tzigane while achieving less than some who treat it more mellifluously, but for the rest these are some of the most distinguished recordings of these works in the catalogue. It is interesting that the contrast between the various styles of violin-playing which might have been expected is less noticeable than the overall consistency. All the artists are concerned with making the instrument sing without exaggerated vibrato or portamenti and adopt a straightforward non-interventionist approach to the music (yes, Kennedy included). It would be almost invidious to single out the separate items, but Oistrakh's very rich, full tone was an especial pleasure (the more so since so much of his art is preserved on sub-standard Russian recordings), and so were two quite exceptional collaborations; Kremer and Argerich in Beethoven and Perlman and Ashkenazy in Franck.

Not so long ago I was remarking with regard to a Brendel set on Vox that one of the hallmarks of a great pianist is that every note has its importance. Listen to Argerich in the Beethoven slow movement. Her left hand may be playing something not much more elaborate than an Alberti bass, but each note has a wonderful luminosity, revealing this to be the foundation from which the melodic lines, both hers and the violinists, derive. And also with Ashkenazy I would like to draw attention to the slow movement, for it is not particularly surprising that he negotiates with ease all the semi-quaver passages in the second and fourth movements which many an enthusiastic academy student has splashed his way through. But listen, rather, to the sweet luminosity of his chording as the Recitativo-Fantasia opens, and to how, as the piano part flowers into triplets, the non-harmony notes are placed like pebbles gently dropped into a pool of water, each one leaving its mark behind it. And hear how this partnership gives real shape to a movement which can seem harder to bring off than the others, where so often sheer enthusiasm can carry the day.

Presumably the seasoned collector will have or want these performances in their original context but this is an extremely well-planned anthology for the sector of the public at which it is aimed.

Christopher Howell

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: