Livia Sohn has an impressive CV with appearances with over seventy
orchestras on five continents. She won First Prize in the Yehudi
Menuhin International Violin Competition when she was twelve
and has studied with, among others Felix Galimir. Like so many
other young musicians she has technical brilliance in abundance
and her playing is confident and musical. She plays on a J.B.
Guadagnini violin of 1770, which doesn’t sound to be among the
most powerful instruments in the business, but it is pliant
and lean, although occasionally a bit wiry – or is it the recording?
I wouldn’t think so with Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver in
music is another matter. Medleys, fantasies, variations or pure
transcriptions of opera melodies for any number of instruments
were in vogue during the 19th century and to a lot
of people the only way of hearing such music at all. Sometimes
they tended to be more vehicles for the player(s) to show off
their technical brilliance and Hubay’s Carmen Fantasy
is a good example, Hubay being one of the leading violinists
of the day. So if you wish to just sit back in your best chair
and just indulge in stunning wizardry, start from the beginning
– and you get many of the best melodies from the opera in the
Raff was an important composer in the mid-18th century,
not least as a symphonist, but today he is largely forgotten.
He wrote three duos on themes from Wagner operas and the third
of them was based on Lohengrin, where the Wedding March
is the dominating theme. Honest and beautiful music, though
for listeners familiar with the originals a bit watered down.
aria from Stravinsky’s Mavra isn’t very enticing at all.
The piano accompaniment is monotonous to the verge of tedious
and also the violin part is repetitive with only a few breaks
and changes of direction.
Argentinean composer Osvaldo Golijov wrote an opera based on
the life of Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca,
Ainadamar, which was premiered at the Tanglewood Festival
of Contemporary Music in August 2003. It was later recorded
by Deutsche Grammophon, receiving two Grammy Awards. Desde
mi ventana is the first solo that Lorca sings in the opera,
and the transcription of it on this disc is the first transcription
ever from the opera. It is mainly lyrical and contemplative.
Not having heard the opera I have no idea of what the original
sounds like but this is undoubtedly atmospheric music. Ms Sohn
and and Benjamin Loeb are here joined by Geoff Nuttall for a
two songs from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera are woven
together as a kind of double rondo and it is the suggestive
melodies that carry this composition. The longest piece on the
disc, Stephen Prutsman’s Fantasy Extract on Themes from Richard
Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was actually the composition
that caught my attention most of all. Strauss’s score is of
course one of the marvels of colourful orchestration and I was
constantly surprised how well Prutsman manages to reproduce
the richness of the original – if not in all its vivid colours
but in atmosphere.
sheer virtuosity and melodic sweetness Paganini is of course
hard to beat. Whether borrowing themes, as here, or writing
his own, he always extracts phrases that seem close to syrupy
but he almost always manages to steer clear from getting stuck
in treacle. In these variations on the famous aria from Tancredi
Livia Sohn is forced to show her hand – and it is a full hand!
concluding pieces, from The Pearl Fishers and Le roi
d’Ys are more or less straight forward transcriptions of
well known pieces for violin and piano, with Geoff Nuttall’s
viola adding the baritone voice for the Bizet duet.
I won’t pretend that this is indispensable music it is good
to have it available and added value lies in the fact that three
of the works here get their first recording. Violin fanciers
and opera lovers alike should derive a lot of pleasure from