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Elmar Oliveira plays Favourite Encores
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Meditation from Thais
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937) transcribed Heifetz
Porgy and Bess

Summertime
My Man’s Gone Now
Bess, you is my Woman Now
It Ain’t Necessarily So
Tempo di Blues
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)

Vocalise Op. 34 No. 12
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Valses Nobles et Sentimentales Nos. 6 and 7 arr Heifetz
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)

Melodie from Orfeo arr Kreisler
Ottokar NOVÁCEK (1866-1900)

Perpetuum mobile

Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943)

Hebrew melody

Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Liebesfreud

Victor HERBERT (1859-1924)

Three Pieces

Serenade
Canzonetta
A la Valse
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)

Aus der Heimat Nos. 1 and 2
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)

Hopak

William KROLL (1901-1980)

Banjo and Fiddle

Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)

Suite Populaire Espagnole

Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

Lied ohne Worte arr Kreisler
Elmar Oliveira (violin)
Robert Koenig (piano)
Recorded Concordia College, Bronxville, New York July 2000
ARTEK AR-0007-2 [74.23]

It takes a violinist of adept and adaptable stylistic affinities to offer homage to his violinistic forebears. In his own notes Oliveira reveals that all the pieces here are connected in some way with certain players in his memory – Michael Rabin, Heifetz, Milstein and Kreisler. Oliveira is one of the foremost violinists in America now playing and also one of the less well known. His success with the Barber Concerto did not propel him to the ranks of the leading international soloists – but it’s clear that he is a musician of powerful gifts and broad sympathies. He has an elegant tone, focused, controlled but well varied and a strong colouristic sense and some (not overused) inflective devices – such as emotive finger position changes – through which he can give richly nuanced and textured life to the music. His right hand is strong – with fluent and fluid bowing. To all this he brings a strong profile and here evokes but never imitates his violin heroes so closely identified in his mind with these works.

The recital begins with the Massenet. It’s stylistically apposite with some expressive shading but is also rather over-projected. My problem relates to the sound and I’m not entirely sure whether this is Oliveira’s fault or the responsibility of the engineers or a combination – but he never seems to play quietly enough. The result is that the more quiescent pieces emerge rather beefier than they should. Oliveira can be a commanding and virile tonalist but he’s capable of relaxing, as he shows here, so I’d be hesitant to apportion responsibility; the fact remains that much of the quiet playing sounds too loud. His Gershwin-Heifetz Porgy and Bess is splendid, the colour and vibrant bite of My Man’s Gone Now probably the highlight even though he lacks Heifetz’s razor sharp responses in Bess, You Is My Woman Now. No arguments however with the dare-devilry of It Ain’t Necessarily So. To paraphrase the old Prime Minister’s Questions, in the case of Rachmaninov’s Vocalise I refer you to the comments I made in respect of Massenet – only more so. Achron’s Melody scores well for idiomatic sensitivity – though this is not the molten Elman approach – but Kreisler’s Liebesfreud, whilst not slow doesn’t sound optimally phrased and, ironically, sounds too slow. The little Herbert trifles are nice to have but don’t make much of an impression. His de Falla, however, registers strongly – and reaches real heights with the Jota and Asturiana where he plays with impressive sweep and allure.

For reasons already stated this recital gets a somewhat mixed recommendation but I should add that when Oliveira is on top form, which is often, and especially in de Falla, he is a dazzling and magnetic performer.

Jonathan Woolf



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