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