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Short Stories - A collection of romantic violin pieces.
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)

Short Story (transcribed Dushkin)
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)

Bolero Op.51 No.3
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)

Pièce en forme de Habanera
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)

Tango Habanera "Youkali" (transcribed Garlej)
Efrem ZIMBALIST (1889-1985)

Sarasateana Suite – Tango
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)

Valse Op.42 No.3 (transcribed Barinovoi)
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)

Fantasie Orientale
Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943)

Liebeswidmung Op.51
Ovide MUSIN (1854-1929)

Mazurka de Concert
Hans SITT (1850-1922)

Bolero Op.95 No.12
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)

Mazurka in A Minor (transcribed Kreisler)
Valse in A minor Op.34 No.2 (transcribed Sarasate)
Isaac ALBÉNIZ (1860-1909)

Tango Op.165 No.2 (transcribed Kreisler)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1872-1943)

Danses Tziganes Op.6 (transcribed Dushkin)
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)

Trois Morceaux Op.40
David Frühwirth (violin)
Henri Sigfridsson (piano)
Recorded in July 2000, Vienna Symphony Studio, Konzerthaus, Vienna
AVIE AV0042 [70.03]


David Frühwirth and Henri Sigfridsson seem to be making a speciality of seeking out buried treasure in their recordings for Avie. Recently we had ‘Trails of Creativity’, which took in an electric brew of, inter alia, Adolf Busch, Wellesz, Walton, Weill, Rathaus and still less predictably, Gurney and Frederick Rosse. Their latest disc, rather innocuously subtitled A collection of romantic violin pieces, gives us some more rarities from the obscurer and mustier corners of the violinists’s music drawer.

Leavening these rarities are well-known arrangements or transcriptions – Ravel, Chopin – but, in keeping with the probing archaeological leanings of these two musicians, some rare things such as the Gershwin arrangement for example, or the Glazunov. Frühwirth brings a degree of real aristocratic finesse to some of these morceaux and he cements the fine partnership with Sigfridsson that was so much a feature of that last disc. They score highly in Weill with some sensitively withdrawn and effective playing of the Tango Habanera and also in Hans Sitt’s Bolero – which is all charm and no fireworks (and that’s a compliment). In the Albéniz we can hear Frühwirth’s occasionally rather patrician reserve at its fullest – he’s certainly not one to lavish evocative tonal reserves on these pieces in the manner of, say, Kreisler or Thibaud, but his narrow-bore vibrato and clean playing brings its own rewards. The Wieniawski, one of a number marked as first ever recordings, is a rather generic piece of Orientalism but does provide plenty of opportunities for good bowing, all of which Frühwirth takes with commendable sang froid. The Gershwin is in its transcription by Samuel Dushkin; composer and violinist premiered it in 1926 and Dushkin went on to record it in London with the excellent pianist Max Pirani. I doubt if Frühwirth and Sigfridsson know that 1928 recording but they could listen to it with profit. Dushkin’s lascivious and constant portamenti, his rhythmic flexibility and capricious phrasing, all point to a malleable nervousness. By contrast Frühwirth and Sigfridsson are pristine, songful, unhurried and tend to co-opt the piece strongly to the European salon. If indeed I have criticisms of their playing generally it’s of a certain indulgence with these pieces; they don’t quite stamp and define them enough, or always lavish necessary weight of tonal pressure on them.

Regarding the promised premiere recordings I should add a few footnotes. The Zimbalist Tango from his Sarasateana Suite is indeed as far as I know the first recording by a violinist. But William Primrose recorded the whole suite – stupendously - in his viola arrangement and makes this performance sound positively sluggish. Vieuxtemps’ Bohemiènne, the third of the Op.40 Morceaux is certainly not a premiere recording – Burkhard Godhoff and Kontarsky recorded it for Koch Schwann back in 1989. And, pernickety though it is – and it is – I should add that the Musin isn’t a first recording either. The violinist-composer himself recorded it, one of a mere handful of discs he left behind, in a recording issued by the Belgian Conservatory of Music, though as Musin died in 1929 I can’t imagine that this was other than a promotional, celebratory or archive disc.

Still, there are some intriguing nuggets along the way and I like these two musicians’ willingness to explore fruitful byways in their recordings and recital programmes. Their erudite inquisitiveness is much appreciated.

Jonathan Woolf


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