> Bach Concerto Album Lara St John [KM]: Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Concerto Album

Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041
1. Allegro 3:29
2. Andante 6:05
3. Allegro 3:28
Concerto No. 2 in E major, BWV 1042
4. Allegro 7:33
5. Adagio 6:36
6. Allegro Assai 2:27
Double Concerto in D minor, BWV 1043 (with Scott St. John)
7. Vivace 3:20
8. Largo ma non tanto 6:20
9. Allegro 4:10
Sonata No. 1 in G minor for Violin Solo, BWV 1001
10. Adagio 3:53
11. Fuga 4:51
12. Siciliana 2:46
13. Presto 3:18
Lara St. John, violin
New York Bach Ensemble
Rec: September 2000, New York Academy of Arts and Letters; February 2001 Skywalker Sound Scoring Stage, Marin County, California.
AVIE AV 0007 [58.47]

You certainly cannot judge a book by its cover. Looking at the picture on the cover of this CD, with Lara St. John looking sensually at the camera, pouting, as her clothes seem to be drawn by gravity, one might expect a disc from the latest Britney Spears wannabe. Lara St. John has deliberately crafted this image, however, in order to attract those who might not purchase classical music. In her first three recordings she has show a rare mastery of violin technique, which makes her more than just a pretty face.

This third recording was released in April 2002, and, at the same time, an announcement was made that St. John has signed a contract with Sony Music. It turns out that her gamble has paid off - she has made it to the majors through a careful combination of image and musical virtuosity. For she is an excellent violinist; there is no doubt about it. This disc, which contains Bachís three violin concertos, and the first sonata for solo violin, shows that she plays these majestic pieces effortlessly. While her accompaniment remains in the background - making this a soloistís discs rather than an ensemble disc - it serves her well.

The sound of her excellent Guadagnini violin is rich and sensuous, and she uses it well in the sonata for solo violin in G minor. In fact, this work is the high point of the album - her recording of the fugue from this sonata shows a great deal of subtlety and a true understanding of the music.

At times the magic slips, though, when St. John sounds more of a virtuoso than a feeling musician. But these moments are rare, and this disc, if anything, is the presage of an interesting career. Perhaps now that she has graduated to the big time, she can dispense with the provocative poses and her discs will be sold for the music - excellent as it is - rather than for her image.
Kirk McElhearn

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