I assume that Nicolas is a scion
of the famed quartet leader Koeckert because there seems
to be strong violinist blood in his veins – though the connection
is never made explicit in the biographical notes. If so
he would doubtless have inherited, if one follows genetic
principles, a discreet and intense appreciation of rhythm
and balance in chamber playing. When it comes to Kreisler’s
transcriptions questions of tonal nuance, rubati, slides
and period expressive devices also come into play. Great
individualists who have essayed the Kreisler Songbook –
from Elman to Szeryng and Shumsky, to name three to whom
I’ve been listening to recently, have all managed to retain
individuality whilst evincing a natural and rich appreciation
of the ethos, even at its most indulgent in Elman’s case.
Naxos has concentrated
on “Russian and Slavonic miniatures”, so-called. In effect
this means Dvořák, Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.
These are almost all exceedingly well-known pieces – with
the proviso that some will not have heard the Slavonic Fantasy,
concocted from Dvořák, the Rimsky Fantasy, or the Dvořák
Ninth Symphony Largo in its arrangement for violin and piano.
The others are, if not staples of the encore repertoire,
at least hugely loved and it’s pleasurable to listen to
them en bloc here.
been accorded a rather spread acoustic in the Clara-Wieck-Suditorium,
which means there’s a certain diffuseness of sound. What
is odd is that, added to the spread (which one would have
thought implied distance), we can hear close up sniffs from
the violinist. Other than that, though, the recording is
reasonable enough though it’s not one over which one could
remotely rave (like some of Naxos’ solo piano discs in fact).
Koeckert is by and large a jaunty, extrovert player with
a tone that never really takes on a burnished hue. His Dvořák
Humoresque is cocksure and quick whilst that by Tchaikovsky
sounds rather flippant next to a Kreislerian of great stature
such as Shumsky. Chant sans paroles is up to tempo
but he does very little with it; no warmth gives life to
it, no rubati or metrical displacements; not much sense
really of any colouristic affinity or affection.
cantabile from Tchaikovsky’s Quartet sounds attractively
elfin with Koeckert abjuring depth of tone and inflexions
of vibrato but overall I find playing of this kind, whilst
proficient and in many ways laudably straight, rather non-committal
and stylistically inapt. Try Tchaikovsky’s Scherzo as a
test case; you’ll either find it smooth, elegant, dextrous
and gimlet eyed or you’ll find it inert, undramatic and
unvisited by colour changes. If you feel the latter, turn
to Shumsky’s performance for supporting evidence.
are pretty consistent; thoroughly proficient, well-executed,
well supported by his pianist, and avoiding easy gestures
and crude simplicities; thoughtful and discreet musicianship,
in other words. But for me it misses the heart of these
works with regularity. I’d recommend one of the eminent
trio above (Szeryng may be hard to find, Elman sometimes
hard to take) or better still Kreisler himself, many of
whose recordings of these works are now available.