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Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concertos for Violin and Strings Op.8 Nos 1-4 The Four Seasons (published 1725) * [39.05]
No.1 Spring RV269
No.2 Summer RV 315
No.3 Autumn RV 293
No.4 Winter RV 297
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)

Concerto in One Movement Ė after the first movement of the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major Op.6 by Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840) [17.14]
Benjamin Schmid (violin and conductor *)
Camerata Salzburg *
Mozarteum Orchestra/Hubert Soudant
Recorded in the Grosser Saal Mozarteum, Salzburg, September 2001 (Vivaldi) and July-October, 2001 (Kreisler)

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Iíve come across some weird couplings in my time but this oneís the beeís pyjamas of weird couplings. The rising Austrian star fiddle player Benjamin Schmid has yoked together a warhorse so leathery that itís barely fit to saddle with a Kreislerian concoction that should properly be classified under Paganini and is, in any case, never played. This is the arrangement, adaptation, extrapolation (what have you) of the first movement of the Italianís D major Concerto, the First, though the quaint words "after Paganini" do serve well enough. Letís start there.

In his publicity material it seems that Vienna hailed their returning son as a Kreisler redivivus when he performed there with the Philharmonic. Which is odd. Tonally and stylistically we know Schmid admires Ivry Gitlis, a maverick wild card if ever there was one, and listening to Schmidís playing of the one movement concerto one feels the greater pull of the contemporary than any residual expressive features that Kreisler may have bequeathed. That doesnít mean of course that one demands Schmid apes Old School devices but does serve to show his determination to meet a work of this kind on his own terms. There have been very few recordings of this work but Kreislerís own, with the Philadelphia and Ormandy, is clearly hors de combat and the early post war Decca that Alfredo Campoli made with the National Symphony Orchestra and Victor Olof in London was profoundly of the Kreislerian ethos Ė itís available on Dutton but I donít like the transfer. So maybe itís high time that a steelier, more firmly centred and square jawed performance was put on disc in good sound. Certainly the orchestra commits some forward sounding solos Ė room for harp and a fine clarinet Ė but the focus is on Schmid who executes his harmonics and the tough cadenza with notable aplomb. Of overt affection thereís perhaps less on show.

In the Four Seasons Schmid at least surrounds himself with a small band, the Camerata Salzburg, composed of fifteen strings and a harpsichord/organ continuo. Some little orchestral swellings in the Allegro of Autumn attest to a concern for some influence from original instrument performances. But in the main these are modest, crisp chamber orchestra sized traversals of the concerti. There are some rather too emphatic moments in the same concertoís slow movement Ė and some strong ornamentation as well Ė but Schmid digs into the opening of Summer well and without indulgence. His finale here is bold with roughened articulation. He cultivates an expressive depth in the slow movement of Autumn and the off beat pizzicati are perky in its finale. Winterís ice is well conveyed in its opening Allegro Ė good and brittle Ė though the Largo sounds restless under the ice thaws of the pizzicati accompaniment. Interestingly he employs some subtle rubati here, though for my taste the tempo is all too historically informed - fast. His ornaments are by no means excessive and reasonably well thought through.

The sound varies from performance to performance; the Vivaldi is intimate and attractive, the Kreisler-Paganini just a touch blowsy though not really problematically so. The notes are in German and English and recommendation is well nigh impossible inasmuch as this is a unique coupling. In the end choice will be artist based, especially since the Kreisler only lasts seventeen minutes.

Jonathan Woolf


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