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Pièces de Concert
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)

La Ronde des Lutins op. 25 [4:57]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)

Caprice en forme de valse Op. 52/6 [7:43]
Nicolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Cantabile [3:44]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) / Joseph JOACHIM (1831-1907)

Hungarian Dance No. 7 [1:41]
Hungarian Dance No. 20 [2:55]
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)

Carmen. Fantasie brillante
Andante moderato [3:23]
Allegretto quasi andantino [1:43]
Allegro moderato [3:26]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Valse sentimentale Op. 51/6 [2:31]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)

Three Preludes – transcribed Jascha Heifetz *
Prelude I [1:32]
Prelude II [3:34]
Prelude III [1:11]
Miklós SKUTA (b.1960)

Toccata [7:38] *
Darius MILHAUD (1892-1974)

Le bœuf sur le toit (Cinema-Fantasie)
Animé [09:43]
Cadence de Arthur Honegger [1:47]
Un peu plus animé [6:33]
Benjamin Schmid (violin)
Lisa Smirnova (piano)
Miklós Suta (piano) *
Recorded February – July 2001 Schärding, Kabinsaal / Fallsbach, Catholic Church
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 309 [64.59]

 

This is certainly no run of the mill encore-recital programme. Instead Benjamin Schmid has opted for a well-characterised and geographically widespread selection that takes in his composer-accompanist and contemporary Miklós Suta as well as legato Paganini (praise be) and some jazzy Milhaud and Gershwin. Obviously there are chestnuts along the way but the tenor of the recital is predicated on variety as well as spice, lyric generosity as much as finger-busting virtuosity.

The Saint-Saëns is a case in point. This makes some serious demands on intonational security and on control of harmonics, forcing the player high up the fingerboard. Schmid passes these tests well, if sometimes one might wish his tone would expand more at certain points; it can be quite a tightly centred and steely one. His Paganini demonstrates he can spin a melody with assurance and his Brahms-Joachim Hungarian Dances avoid the evergreens and instead opt for Nos.7 and 20, which have considerable charms of their own. Lisa Smirnova proves no servile chauffeur-accompanist in her selections and she shows in the Hubay how important this is; this is the Hungarian’s Carmen Fantasie, which treads different ground from all those other Fantasies on the same work from Sarasate to Waxman. Schmid digs deeper into the string here, giving us some fat tone in the lower strings, though even he can’t minimise some rather repetitious writing in the final paragraphs. With the Gershwin and Milhaud we come to a side of Schmid’s musical make up that has been noted – his liking for jazz inflexions. His Gershwin, in the famed Heifetz transcription – is well nuanced but doesn’t bend the line and doesn’t give in to the temptation to overplay. The Milhaud is better known in its orchestral guise but its scalar problems are a real test and are especially exposed in this violin and piano reduction. Nevertheless, once surmounted, we can enjoy the Latin American tints and the more brittle Parisian rhetoric in Schmid’s gutsy performance. Skuta’s Toccata muses between improvisation and a sophisticated kind of minimalism. There’s a wistful song at its heart but also some weird sounding tone colours and a deal of rhythmic insistence, elements of the folkloric and opportunities for some coarse sounding roughening of the tone by the violinist. Moments of the playing put me in mind of Roby Lakatos.

Well recorded and thoughtfully annotated by the violinist this is a successful selection of Schmid’s encore arsenal. It’s well stocked, cleverly deployed and makes for a pleasurable listen.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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