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Daniel Röhn - Virtuoso Pieces for Violin and Piano
Christian SINDING (1856-1941)

Suite in A minor Op.10 [12.07]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Fantasy in C major Op. posth. 159 D934 [22.40]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Hungarian Dance No.17 – arranged Fritz KREISLER [3.52]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)

Estrellita arranged Jascha HEIFETZ [3.05]
Stephen FOSTER (1826-1864)

Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair arranged Jascha HEIFETZ [2.54]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)

Menuet from Petite Suite – arranged Daniel RÖHN [2.39]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)

Guitarre Op.45 No.2 arranged Pablo de SARASATE [3.08]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)

Nel cor più non mi sento (Paisiello) for solo violin arranged Vaša PŘÍHODA [8.51]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)

Carmen Fantasy [9.59]
Daniel Röhn (violin)
Milana Chernyavska (piano)
rec. Bavarian Radio studio 2, Munich, March, September, November 2002
CLAVES 50-2507 [69.56]

No sooner have I reviewed a disc by Nicolas Koeckert, a chip off the violinistic block of the famed and eponymous quartet leader, than I encounter Daniel Röhn whose grandfather Erich was one of Furtwängler’s Berlin Philharmonic concertmasters. Some may know in particular the wartime broadcast of the Beethoven Concerto that preserved the partnership of the two and which has been released a number of times (currently available on a large DG retrospective Furtwängler boxed set covering the years 1942-44). Curiously, the respective qualities that informed the playing of their forbears seems to have infiltrated their own. Koeckert’s Naxos Kreisler album was elegant, precise, rather small-scaled and lacking in great expansive gestures, which for some doubtless proved a blessing. Röhn by contrast has inherited something of the leader-soloist disposition of his grandfather; his playing is multi-hued, bold, full of panache and colourful expressive gestures.

That is just as well because he’s taken on a programme that includes nods to violinistic titans of the past – and it doesn’t pay to be shy in this kind of repertoire. Heifetz looms large; he was the leading exponent of the Sinding Suite and the Ponce and Foster arrangements are his, the Waxman confection being dedicated to him for good measure. The Hungarian Dance Röhn essays is in Kreisler’s arrangement and despite the fact that he often heard his parents play it it’s certainly not ubiquitous. The Moszkowski is in the Sarasate arrangement, whilst as if this wasn’t enough he tries his hand at Příhoda’s wrist wrenching Paganini arrangement.

I ignored the puffery in the sleeve notes which cited "a young God" in a review culled from the pages of the over excited burghers of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. And I scoffed at the reference as to how he reminded someone of "Szeryng and Heifetz" – a very strange conjunction. Still, having come to scoff at his presumption, I stayed to admire his musicianship. There is some fine playing here – fearless, characterful, and full of absorbing devices to keep the music alive. His bowing in the Sinding is more than creditable and he opens the gates for some throbbing vibrato in the second movement, which shows a more than nodding acquaintance with Heifetz’s own recording with the RCA Orchestra and Wallenstein. If one thinks his gestures rather too wide I think his cadenza in the finale redeems things – passionate and committed.

In the Ponce one can hear those constant changes of colour in which he engages and there’s some fine double-stopping in the Foster-Heifetz. I think low calorific tastes may once more find him rather tense and too emotive but I should think others will enjoy his luscious tonal range and daredevil heart-on-sleeve playing. The Debussy is in his own effective arrangement and we can gauge the rapidity of his trill in the Moszkowski. It’s true that he lacks the arranger Příhoda’s tightly coiled attack in the Paganini though arguably he tends to miss the Czech’s wizard’s sense of fantasy as well, which is one of the most important components, aside from digital pyrotechnics. The left hand pizzicati certainly ring out loud and true – maybe a discreetly sleek portamenti or two might have added style and awareness.

The Waxman needs a vibrant, fruity engagement and it gets that from Röhn, whose Old School playing – certainly not lacking polish lest one thinks him at all slapdash – is full of winning candour and warmth, even with one or two tough intonational battles not entirely surmounted. The intellectual meat of the programme is the Schubert Fantasy, one of the most difficult duo pieces in the violin repertoire and a notorious death trap for the unwary. It’s the kind of piece that generally requires a cast iron and preferably long-standing rapport between both musicians. Both Röhn and Chernyavska are fine chamber players though I’m not sure how long they’ve played together. This is a persuasive and songful traversal, strong on local incident and once again a sense of colour.

This is the kind of recital where a young musician lays out his wares; Schubert for strength of intellect, Paganini for fireworks, Debussy for sentiment, Sinding as a promissory note for future, larger things such as concerti, and Waxman for charisma – and so on. I think Röhn passes the test. Sometimes he’s too intense but better that than too understated. I liked his playing and what’s more I enjoyed it. With a good recording and his own brief notes I can recommend him. He’s a player I want to hear again – so maybe those burghers were right all along.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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