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Léon de SAINT-LUBIN (1805-1850)
Virtuoso works for Violin - Volume 1
Grand Duo Concertant, Op. 49 (published 1847) [27:45]
Fantaisie sur un thème de Lucia di Lammermoor, Op. 46 (published 1844) 6:28]
Thème Original et Etude de S. Thalberg, Op. 45a (published c.1843) [6:03]
Adagio Religioso, Op. 44 published 1842 [6:43]
Potpourri on themes from Auber's La Fiancée, Op. 35 [13:38]
Salonstucke, Op. 47: No. 1. Nocturne [3:02] and Rondino [3:45]
Salonstucke, Op. 47, No. 2: Nocturne [2:26] and Polonaise [4:57]
Anastasia Khitruk (violin)
Elizaveta Kopelman (piano)
rec. Glenn Gould Studio, CBC, Toronto, June 2008
NAXOS 8.572019 [75:16] 
Experience Classicsonline

Naxos continues its exploration of the byways of the violinistically arcane with this disc devoted to Saint-Lubin. Rather like Rode, his is a name more honoured in the breach than in concert performance these days. Saint-Lubin was born in Turin in 1805 to a French family that had fled the Revolution (he was actually christened Napoléon-Antoine-Eugène). At the age of about four the family moved to Hamburg and subsequently he studied with Spohr, and then gravitated to Vienna. Here he met Beethoven, who wrote a small cadenza for him to play in 1822. Having then heard Paganini he withdrew to an estate in Hungary, that of an aristocratic patron, to work on his technique, but by 1830 he was back in the public eye as concertmaster of the Royal Municipal Theatre in Berlin, where he died at an early age in 1850.

The major work in this first volume is the Grand Duo Concertant, published in 1847. It's a curious hybrid, with the piano writing often sounding decidedly Beethovenian whilst the violin spins a lyric line that sounds part derived from Schubert. It's very well written for both instruments and extremely well paced. There's grace and also a touch of drollery, maybe even frivolity in the opening movement, whilst the second has a strong Beethovenian cast to it, and is full of verve. There's a warm slow movement, nothing too fulsome to over balance the schema, which sports a perky and extrovert B section. A bright, keen Allegretto finishes the work in style.

The other works fall into well established genres of writing - the operatic variations, the salon charmers, and the mildly lachrymose sweetmeat. The Fantaisie sur un thème de Lucia di Lammermoor obviously falls into the first category, a display piece of considerable virtuosity, calling for a battery of resources and majoring on left hand pizzicato and tremolandi to fan the flames; clearly a post-Paganinian confection, which Anastasia Khitruk digs into with chewy vibrato and great panache. The Potpourri on themes from Auber's La Fiancée is another paraphrase, just as demanding, but also exuding veritable whiffs of stage paint. The Thème Original et Etude de S. Thalberg, Op. 45a is cleverly wrought - an arrangement for violin of a piano etude it transfers to the new medium extremely convincingly, even exuding as it does considerable bowing difficulties. It was dedicated jointly to Bazzini and Sivori so Saint-Lubin was reaching out to the best. As one would expect the Adagio Religioso is warmly textured but fortunately not too religiose. And the salon morceaux that end the disc are full of lightweight charm and rather generic dance patterns.

With fine recorded sound and notes this first volume gets off to a cracking start. Khitruk and Elizaveta Kopelman are first class ambassadors for this kind of music and marry virtuosity with elegance throughout.

Jonathan Woolf




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