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Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise in D major: Op. 4 (1852) [5:07]
Obertass Mazurka: Op. 19 No. 1 (1860) [2:18]
Scherzo Tarantelle: Op. 16 (1855) [4:38]
Capriccio Valse: Op. 7 (1854) [4:39]
Légende: Op. 17 (1864) [6:35]
Polonaise in A major: Op. 21 (1870) [8:47]
Souvenir de Moscow: Op. 6 (1853) [6:55]
Variations on an Original Theme: Op. 15 (1854) [10.32]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Violin Concerto in A minor: Op. 82 (1904) [19:02]
Ruggiero Ricci (violin)
Joanna Gruenberg (piano) (Wieniawski)
Philharmonia Hungarica/Reinhard Peters (Glazunov)
rec. 14 June 2000 (Wieniawski), Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London licensed from Unicorn Kanchana (Wieniawski), licensed from Vox (Glazunov)
REGIS RRC 1249 [72:09]

Henryk Wieniawski was one of the finest of the 19th century violin virtuosi. His abilities were evident from the beginning, and even his childhood was occupied with special training at the Paris Conservatoire, which he entered at the age of just eight. In 1850, when he was still only fifteen, he received the Conservatoire's highest accolade for composition. Within ten years of this date he had become established as violinist to the court of the Tsar of Russia, remaining in this post for several years before embarking upon a series of extended tours with Anton Rubinstein. He settled in Brussels as Professor of Violin, while continuing to perform widely. He died of a heart attack in Moscow at the age of 55.

Being of Polish descent Wieniawski was attracted to the national dance form, the polonaise, and he composed several such pieces. The two examples recorded here are the work of an experienced composer. The music combines the virtuosity of the solo part with a particularly well balanced and effective role for the piano. This is evident from the very beginning, when Joanna Gruenberg gets the recital off to a stirring start by unequivocally establishing the polonaise rhythm. Ricci’s first entry is no less compelling, and these opening bars set the standard for the whole enterprise.

Ruggiero Ricci’s fame as a virtuoso performer has become legendary When this recording was made in 2000 he could still be heard at the top of his form, brilliance and sensitivity combined with the aid of a fabulous technique, and all at the age of 82.

In the sense that Wieniawski’s artistic priorities were so similar to Ricci’s, it is no surprise that the performances have such frisson. However, it is more than a matter of dazzling showmanship. The beautiful Légende, for instance, has an eloquent extension of a distinguished melodic line, while the Souvenir de Moscow is simply magnificent. If there is a criticism it can be laid more in the direction of the recorded sound, which is rather close and aggressive. In some of the music this intensifies the effect of the virtuosity, but it does not serve either the dynamic range or the quality of violin tone anything like so well.

Ricci himself believed that this version of the Glazunov Violin Concerto was one of the finest recordings he made; he described it as ‘a personal favorite’. The recording was originally made for Vox and it has been skilfully remastered for Regis by Paul Arden-Taylor. The violin is placed forward in the perspective of the recording. This is no reflection on the remastering, of course, but it does mean that a few of Glazunov’s most subtle orchestral features are given less than their due worth, as comparison with Oscar Shumsky’s Chandos recording with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra confirms. On the other hand, such is the eloquence of line conjured by Ricci that there are abundant compensations. The final stages of this concerto offer any virtuoso the chance to display his wizardry; and wizardry is undoubtedly the word to use of Ricci.

The CD booklet is nicely produced and full of useful information, both about Ricci and the music.

Terry Barfoot







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