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Miroslav Ambroš (violin)
Il Virtuoso

Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Concert Fantasy on Faust [12:00]
Jota Aragonesa Op.27 [5:09]
Sylvie BODOROVÁ (b.1954)
Dza more – Gypsy Ballad (1991) [5:27]
Nicolň PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Cantabile in D major Op.17 (1823) [3:49]
Moses Fantasy - Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Rossini’s Moses (Dal tuo stellato soglio) (1819) [6:37]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Scherzo tarantelle Op.16 (1856) [4:56]
Louis SPOHR (1784-1859)
Salonstücke – No.1 Barcarole Op.135/1 91845-47) [3:28]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Caprice Viennois Op.2 [4:18]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Violin solo from Fairy Tale, from the Suite from Raduz and Mahulena Op.16 (1897-98) arranged by Josef Suk Jr. [4:42]
Antonio BAZZINI (1818-1897)
Le Ronde des Lutins Op.25 (1852) [5:35]
Miroslav Ambroš (violin)
Zuzana Ambrošová (piano)
rec. Martinů Hall, Lichtenstein Palace, Prague, undated (2006)
ARCO DIVA UP 0089-2 131 [56:40]


Taking a look at the repertoire essayed in his second disc by young Slovak violinist Miroslav Ambroš I thought idly of his esteemed near-compatriot Jan Kubelík. Sarasate, Paganini, Wieniawski, Spohr, Bazzini and a leavening of Kreisler and Suk all have a distinctly old school patina, and a very Kubelík one at that. The Suk is actually an arrangement by our own contemporary Josef Suk of the Fairy Tale form the suite Raduz and Mahulena. And there is one novelty in the shape of Dza more – Gypsy Ballad a brief but tangy 1991 piece by Sylvie Bodorová, one of the Czech Lands’ most impressive composers. But the general direction is otherwise late nineteenth century and generally of a barnstorming profile.

It could hardly really be otherwise when he includes those two staples of the travelling virtuoso’s knapsack, the Paganini Moses Fantasy and Sarasate’s Concert Fantasy on Faust. Violin operatic transcriptions and paraphrases have long been out of favour so it’s quite daring for Ambroš to dust them down, though the pleasures are more gymnastic and titillating than musical. It’s when we turn to the remainder of his programme that we can better assess his playing.

Full marks to him for digging out Sarasate’s Jota Aragonesa, which has been largely ignored in the last half century. He plays this with acumen but comparison with an old timer such as the Spaniard Manuel Quiroga shows how much individuality of vibrato and rhythm a master can bestow on even the smallest piece. The Paganini Cantabile is played with warmth and feeling as is the Spohr. I’m not aware that anyone has ever recorded this with the sole exception of an old 78 by Marjorie Hayward. The lyric intensity and impassioned feeling he finds in Bodorová – a solo violin piece – is impressive.  

His Kreisler is very slightly gauche and a real young man’s performance, which is not surprising as he was barely nineteen when he recorded it. There’s rather too much vibrato too early on and a slight stylistic exaggeration that shows he’s not yet within the idiom. Some slightly rough bowing also counts against the performance. It’s hardly his fault that he lacks, say, Shumsky’s gracioso charm and penetrating style. It’s still rather too early for a sense of optimum projection in the Wieniawski. He lacks a certain savoir-faire and oratorical drama and, for example, the young Ida Haendel’s nasal incision. It’s unfortunate that I dug out the Bazzini contained in the Perlman Rediscovered disc and listened to this alongside the Ambroš; as well as being a full minute quicker Perlman, at roughly the same age as the Slovak, is in incandescent form; Ambroš rather shrivels in the comparison. If you’re going to live up to this disc’s title less circumspection is certainly needed.

Ambroš has a rather familiar habit of some fiddlers, which is a distracting sniff. He’s accompanied, very thoughtfully, by his mother Zuzana Ambrošová. The Martinů Hall in the Lichtenstein Palace in Prague is a well-known recording location and serves well here. A young man to watch no doubt but it’s a little early to decide where he’s going. The Šporcl route of bandana-wearing virtuosity is probably not Ambroš’s way, which is no bad thing. The performance list on his own site shows an as yet narrow repertoire so let’s hope it will be judiciously and intelligently augmented in the years to come.

Jonathan Woolf 



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