This disc is pure pleasure from first to last
(Volume 2 is now also available, CPO999 768-2). Ingolf Turban
(who was offered the post of concertmaster with the Munich Philharmonic
Orchestra by Sergiu Celibidache when only 21 years old) has poured
his talent and belief into these wonderfully attractive pieces.
No less attractive is the playing of his accompanist, the Russian-Jewish
pianist Jascha Nemtsov. The whole disc represents a meeting of
equals and affords much pleasure.
It may take you almost as long to read the booklet
notes as it does to listen to the music itself. Georg Albrecht
Eckle provides well-informed and thorough background to both the
composer and his representations here. Even without any of this,
though, CPO’s generous 72 minutes worth guarantees much pleasure.
The disc begins with by far the heftiest item,
the First Grand Sonata. This is music of very serious intent.
Interestingly, despite its full duration of nearly 28 minutes,
one expects the first movement to be longer than it actually is:
is this a need to hear more from the players, or is it that Raff’s
material is so fertile that he does not quite do it justice?.
Whatever, the performance has real drive.
It is typical of Raff that the slow movement
(with its qualifier, ‘nicht zu langsam’) contains great charm
amongst its generally sober intent. The fact that both players
are young probably meant that the cheeky end to the ‘sehr rach
und fein’ second movement came easily to them. However, it is
in the finale that the sparks really fly. There is superb violin
playing, and Nemtsov despatches the fiendishly difficult piano
part with apparent ease.
The overall trajectory of the works on this disc
seems to be from the more ‘serious’ constraints of the sonata
towards the salon. Thus, the Duo, Op. 59 and the Two Fantasy Pieces,
Op. 58 separate the Sonata from a pot-pourri on themes from Tannhäuser.
Eckle’s booklet notes make much of the influence of Mendelssohn
on Raff, and this is certainly aurally obvious in the charming
Duo. This is a fairly extended piece, but the easy flow makes
the time fly by. It has to be admitted, though, that some of the
linking passages are running low on the inspiration that fuelled
the whole of the Grand Sonata.
The two Fantasy Pieces were written for Mendelssohn’s
friend Ferdinand David. They contain much lovely playing here,
often of a quasi-improvisational nature. Both players, although
possibly particularly Nemtsov, revel in the tonally rich sounds
Finally, the first chord of the Tannhäuser
Duo affirms our musico-geographical whereabouts. This is a flighty,
fun recontextualisation of the familiar, which makes Wagner seem
completely and utterly harmless. It is a fun way to end a most
stimulating and rewarding release. The many difficulties are surmounted
with ease by Turban and Nemtsov (try Turban’s excellently-placed
high register at around 8’24, for example, immediately following
a virtuoso-like passage from the pianist)..
Wholeheartedly recommended. This disc is a box
of life-affirming delights waiting to be opened.