Cembal d’Amour’s dedication to David Nadien is one of the more
heartening features of the scene at the moment. It goes hand in
glove with their restoration of Mindru Katz’s commercial recordings;
both marques have also given us live performances to give even
greater depth and breadth to our appreciation of their very singular
talents. Katz, alas, died young but Nadien is still very much
with us – witty, wry, and discreet.
My last encounter
with Nadien was on a CD and DVD release (see review)
in which you will find links to my other reviews of this elite
artist’s Cembal d’Amour discs. They’re all well worth seeking
out. Those in the know will be familiar with Nadien’s resumé but
for those who have not encountered him a few words will suffice.
Nadien was born in New York in 1928 and studied with Adolpho Betti,
celebrated first violinist of the Flonzaley Quartet, and later
with the pedagogue Ivan Galamian. Principally a recitalist he
did also appear as soloist with the New York Philharmonic, of
which orchestra he was leader from 1966 to 1970. He has been a
distinguished teacher and coach and also had a substantial commercial
career in the studios of New York, appearing with other stellar
first-call session men such as violinists Harry Lookofsky and
Charles Libove as well as the late cellist Alan Schulman (broadminded
listeners will find Nadien on many an unlikely disc and he was
part of the string section on Spyro Gyra’s jazz-fusion albums,
This latest disc contains
seventy four minutes of a New York Town Hall recital given in
January 1973. The pianist is Samuel Sanders. Things get underway
with the cultured nobility of the Tartini-Kreisler Fugue, in the
course of which Sanders proves no shrinking violet. This is followed
by Beethoven’s Op.12 No.1 sonata which is played with Nadien’s
characteristic sweetness and vibrancy of tone and with considerable
panache into the bargain. Occasionally one might cavil at the
intensity of his vibrato – a very characteristic part of the Nadien
tonal arsenal is the fast vibrato – but it only really obtrudes
in the Tema. In all this is a vital, vibrant performance,
Sanders powering away, drama and contrast held in good balance.
It’s not often these
days that players present a piano reduced concerto. But in 1973
it was still – just – being done often enough for it to be unexceptionable.
Nadien chooses Vieuxtemps’s A minor as his vehicle, the one with
the blink-and-you-miss-it seventy five second finale. We receive
a full complement of virtuosity and élan in this performance,
along with a generosity of lyric expression. Nadien’s bowing is
terrific, his ethos broadly, though not slavishly, Heifetzian.
The performance elicits excited applause. There are two big works
yet to come. Schumann’s Fantasia in C major in its Kreisler garb
is a big work, not easy to convey violinistically, but here we
have a kind of distillation of Nadien’s art in a performance that
richly conveys vocalised lyricism in a way that so few contemporary
players could possibly emulate. The Chaconne is further evidence
of his formidable musicianship - a strong, sinewy, essentially
There are three encores.
First we have a dashing Wieniawski Scherzo tarantelle, dispatched
with cavalier aplomb, a John Barrymore insouciance to the fore.
Next the Veracini Largo, where his tight vibrato just misses the
kind of effusive warmth that, say, Thibuad brought to it. And
then Schön Rosmarin to end things delightfully.
Another warmly welcomed
disc from this source. Surely there must be many more Nadien tapes
awaiting release; let’s hope so.