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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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John CORIGLIANO (b.1938)
Chaconne from The Red Violin (1998) [16:45]
George ENESCO (1881-1955)

Romanian Rhapsody No.1 (1901)
Arr. Franz Waxman [2:26]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)

Tristan and Isolde Fantasia* (1946) [11:02]
John ADAMS (b.1947)

Violin Concerto (1993) [33:36]
Chloë Hanslip (violin)
Charles Owen (piano*)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
rec. Abbey Road Studio I, London, 11-13 December 2005
NAXOS 8.559302 [63:49]

 

Corigliano and Adams together on one CD has to be a fairly safe commercial bet for any classical record label, especially with the combined big names of Leonard Slatkin and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in support. These giants are topped by one of the most upwardly mobile young soloists around at the moment. Chloë Hanslip’s pure tone and naturally expressive playing suit this music right down to the roots.

Corigliano’s Red Violin is immediately associated with Joshua Bell, who recorded the original soundtrack. ‘The Suite From’ has appeared once or twice, but I don’t remember coming across this stand-alone Chaconne before – an extended work which uses the principal theme to create a set of variations over a ‘ground bass’ which is ever present, but not in the instantly audible Purcell sense. This is typically accessible Corigliano, with lyrical solo lines and colourful, resonant orchestration. The overall effect is certainly much more powerful than simply ‘film music’ fare. As we are led to understand that another two movements have been composed I suspect it won’t be long before we have the full ‘Concerto’ from …

Enesco’s romping Romanian Rhapsody No.1, or at least the bits of it which have been selected for arrangement by Franz Waxman, make for what would have been an excellent encore. There are one or two unmistakably folk-like moments in the solo part, but otherwise this is the kind of piece which would go down well at the average New Year’s gala concert, and none the worse for it. Franz Waxman is further represented in the incredible Tristan and Isolde Fantasia, which only just misses becoming Wagner’s "Rhapsody in Blue" – especially through the significant piano part taken brilliantly by Charles Owen. This piece was used in the 1946 Hollywood film Humoresque, which tells the story of an ambitious violinist who falls in love with his patroness, with inevitably tragic consequences. Elements from the Prelude and Liebestod are tossed around in a hot wok of Hollywood romanticism. While purists may cringe I couldn’t help turning up the volume to 11 on this one!

After the turbulence and emotion of Wagner/Waxman, Adams does well to pick us up from the floor onto which we have all melted. The opening of his Violin Concerto has been compared to the drowning scene in Berg’s ‘Wozzeck’, but with the fluid undulations in the orchestra being extended over the whole of the first movement it is more of an aquatic flying lesson than an agonising sinking feeling. The second movement is a moving Chaconne, with discreetly added bell sounds - some real, some synthesised - from within the orchestra. Polytonal counter-melodies and woodwind filigrees make this an attractive movement, even though its nearly 11 minute duration means it has more of a meditative effect rather than an intensely gripping one. The final Toccare has minimalist touches of ostinati: ticking woodblocks and both tuned and un-tuned percussion effects in a rhythmically demanding whirlwind of joyful Americana. It does come off in this performance, but you do have the feeling that everyone is playing by the seat of their trousers, sorry, pants.

This is another superbly engineered and marvellously well performed production from Naxos. With the John Adams Violin Concerto as the central item it comes into direct competition with Robert MacDuffie on Telarc, coupled with the Violin Concerto by Philip Glass, and Gidon Kremer on Nonesuch, with Adams’ "Shaker Loops" as a substantial filler. While this is a tough call, the Naxos CD does undercut both of the aforementioned competitors by a considerable price margin. Gidon Kremer might take the ultimate laurels for best performance in Adams’ Concerto, but there is nothing in Hanslip’s version which will make you wonder what you are missing.

Dominy Clements

And a further perspective from Rob Barnett:-

Chloë Hanslip is a deservedly celebrated young player. Naxos have done well to engage her for this project and mark it with a prestige card-sleeve as well as all the aural trappings of a deluxe production.

The recordings were made in unaccustomed realms for Naxos: Abbey Road no less. Look too at the conductor and orchestra.

Corigliano's Chaconne from The Red Violin takes themes from the 1998 film of that name and spins variations that are intense, impassioned, ardent, explosive and meditative. The language scarcely drifts from a range marked out by Walton and Shostakovich. It is not a difficult listen and rises to an impressive tempest of protest.

The Rumanian Rhapsody No. 1 is in this case a sparking piece for full orchestra and solo violin. Here it’s all done within 2:26 so it’s not the whole of Enescu's original. Hanslip delivers spirited zigeuner virtuosity - all lightning and flashing eyes!

Then come two works by Franz Waxman as arranger - and more in the case of the Tristan and Isolde Fantasia. This latter piece stands at the climactic point in the 1946 film Humoresque. The Tristan item is also with orchestra and there’s an orchestral piano too, here played by Charles Owen. The style was not quite the torrid superheated affair I had expected. This is more of a romantic pastiche of Mendelssohn or Bruch; very convincingly done as well.

We may well look back at the violin concertos by Glass, Adams and Rorem in years to come as triptychal sisters. All have been convincingly recorded and all several times. Hanslip gives us a convincing performance of Adams’ fantasy-concerto. Its opening bars seem to sidle into the listener’s consciousness. The glistening mystery of the central Chaconne is outstandingly done. The Toccare finale darts and chatters in a return to Adams' brilliant minimalist roots. The ticking variegated percussion (tom-tom and much else) adds counterpoint to the flighty and fast-pattering violin line.

This is a lovely disc which adds valuably to the Naxos American Classics marque. More from Chloe Hanslip please. Let's hear her for example in the two Creston concertos and if you can bear with me for this motley crew of wonderful neglecteds: in the violin concertos of Lionel Sainsbury, Edward Burlingame Hill and Haydn Wood.

Rob Barnett

 



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