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Jonathan Woolf
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Jonathan Woolf
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Opera Fantasies for Violin
Jenö HUBAY (1858-1937)
Fantasie brillante on Bizet's "Carmen" Op.3 No.3 [8:14]
Joseph Joachim RAFF (1822-1882)
Duo on themes from Wagner’s Lohengrin for Violin or cello and Piano in A major, Op. 63 No.3 [9:12]
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882–1971
Mavra: Oh, my dearest one "Parasha's Song" arr. Samuel Dushkin (1891-1976) [3:15]
Oswald GOLIJOV (b.1960)
Ainadamar: Desde mi ventana (From My Window) [7:41] ¹
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Die Dreigroschenoper: Die Moritat von Mackie Messer ["Mack the knife"] arr. Stefan Frenkel (1902-1979) [3:01]
Stephen PRUTSMAN (b.1960)
Fantasy Extract on Themes from Richard Strauss's "Der Rosenkavalier" [15:16]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
" I Palpiti" - Introduction and Variations on “Di tanti Palpiti” from Rossini's Tancredi Op. 13 [11:00]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Les pêcheurs de perles: Au fond du temple saint – arr. Benjamin Loeb [5:08] ²
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Le Roi d'Ys: Vainement, ma bien-aimée [Aubade] arr. Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973) [2:49]
Livia Sohn (violin)
Benjamin Loeb (piano)
Geoff Nuttall (violin ¹, viola ²)
rec. Performing Arts Centre, The Country Day School, Ontario, March 2006
NAXOS 8.570202 [66:15]
Experience Classicsonline

Livia Sohn enters shark-infested waters with this disc and braves the Great Whites of the operatic paraphrase world. There are some heavyweights here - Hubay, Paganini and Raff - but a look at the head note will show that there are some rare and new things here as well. And even the Raff is a less well-known piece and the Hubay is very rare on disc. So full marks for daring those waters and for coming up with enlivening material and not parading the well established warhorses.
The Hubay, as I said, is really very rare on disc. Its major exponent was Vecsey back in about 1904 though that fine player Harry Solloway recorded it as well. You can seek out Benjamin Schmid’s version on an Oehms CD. Sohn proves a vibrant communicator and brings warmth and excitement to bear on Hubay’s less than intellectual Carmen tribute.  Raff’s Wagnerian salute receives an elegant, stylish reading that doesn’t outstay its welcome; Turban and Nemtrov have recorded it as part of their on-going Raff cycle on CPO.
The Stravinsky is heard in the arrangement made by Samuel Dushkin. A subsidiary pleasure of this disc, by the way, is to note the names of the violin-arrangers; Dushkin, Szigeti and Frenkel. Dushkin never recorded the Stravinsky though a host of front ranking players have. Sohn and Loeb take it very quickly for my tastes–I prefer the greater intimations of Russian gravity imparted when played much slower, as Szigeti did with the composer accompanying. Sohn and Loeb are really too jaunty. Golijov is something of a flavour of the month at the moment and this Semitic-Moorish lament is played with great feeling, not least when Geoff Nutall joins on second violin. The Kurt Weill arrangement is by Stefan Frenkel who made some 78 recordings, including some of his own Die Dreigroschenoper arrangement–though not this particular piece unfortunately.  Nicely though she and Loeb turn it, and virtuosic though it sounds, I prefer David Früwirth and Henri Sigfridson’s version on Avie [AV0009]–a two CD set called “Trail of Creativity.” Their performance is less showy but arguably truer to the essential spirit of the music.
No doubts about Stephen Prutsman’s Rosenkavalier piece. I was expecting, having lazily scanned the contents, to find the famous Vása Příhoda arrangement of the Waltzes but it’s good to see a contemporary composer’s thoughts being given an airing in this broadly nineteenth century operatic context. Sohn essays some succulent downward portamenti here. A nice piece though, at sixteen minutes, too long. The Paganini is dispatched with daring and command–the same basic tempo as Grumiaux took though she’s more reserved. And finally two French pieces. The Bizet comes via pianist Benjamin Loeb’s arrangement, which features Nuttall once again, this time on viola. It flirts with the corny but just about wins on points. Lalo’s Aubade was a Szigeti arrangement. Andor Földes (on the labels as “Farkas”) played the piano part more wittily than Loeb and Szigeti set a slightly faster tempo as well. No matter–the Sohn/Loeb duo ends warmly.
Fine sound caps an enjoyable disc. You wouldn’t think so from the title but there are some cannily selected and little heard pieces here, played with flair and no little virtuosity by an enterprising duo.
Jonathan Woolf
see also review by Göran Forsling


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