Melodies - Violin and Guitar Recital
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Thaïs, Act II: Meditation [5:20]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Liebesleid [3:49]
Schön Rosmarin [2:41]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Serse (Xerxes), HWV 40, Act I: Ombra mai fu, "Largo") [5:42]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Ellen's Gesang III (Ave Maria!), Op. 56, No. 6, D. 839, "Hymne an die Jungfrau" [4:51]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Ave verum corpus, K. 618 [2:38]
Maria Theresia von PARADIES (1759-1824)
Sicilienne [2:19]
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 21: IV. Andante [6:40]
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Carmen, Act III: Entracte [2:04]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Flute Sonata in B minor, Op. 1, No. 9, HWV 367b: Larghetto [4:02]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66: No. 1. Cow-Call [2:02]
Norwegian Folksongs, Op. 66: No. 7. Lullaby [1:59]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Orphee et Eurydice, Act II: Dance of the Blessed Spirits [6:42]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Cantabile in D major, Op. 17, MS 109 [3:58]
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
3 Gymnopedies: No. 1. Lent et doloureux [3:16]; No. 2. Lent et triste [3:23]; No. 3. Lent et grave [2:20]
Yi Chen (violin); Lars Hannibal (guitar)
rec. August-September 2009, Karlebo Church, Denmark
OUR RECORDINGS 6.220602 [62:08]

This is the music ‘for a daydream, or the twilight accompaniment for a romantic dinner.’ Bear that in mind the next time you’re subjected to an evening of Muzak or a trawl of Eric Clapton’s Greatest Hits. Instead Lars Hannibal has arranged all these pieces – bar the Paganini – for violin and guitar, and has recorded them with Yi Chen. They’ve performed together before, though you may well recall Hannibal’s longstanding partnership with violinist Kim Sjøgren as well, of course, with Michala Petri, his wife.

One casts a jaundiced eye over the programme, but given that the medium is the message, and that violin-guitar recitals – whilst hardly rare – are inevitably engaging, then it’s better to enjoy what we have. Strong points include Hannibal’s harp-evoking sonorities in his accompaniment to the Thaïs Meditation which are delectable. Yi Chen engages in some little expressive intensifications of the line without imperilling it through too dragged out a tempo. Kreisler features in two selections. Liebesleid is quite slow though the B section is strummed more energetically. Schön Rosmarin however is rather metrical and could do with a great deal more caprice. The playing in Ombra mai fu is direct and discreet, and slow. There were times when I yearned for a touch of Albert Sandler and his luscious portamenti, but that’s a personal matter.

Yi Chen reserves her greatest weight of tone for the Schubert though even here, possibly because of the all-string combination, the ethos is emollient, even bordering on the laid-back. One notices however that in evergreens of yore, but ones that are not so often espoused, such as the Paradies Sicilienne, her playing is more buoyant and unfettered, and she responds with more allure than to the trusted standards. The Lalo derives from his Symphonie espagnole, and Hannibal has already transcribed and recorded the whole thing with Sjøgren. The Handel Larghetto comes from the Op.1 set of sonatas. Rather more interesting is the Grieg folksong diptych; fine dynamic variance on repeated phrases in the Cow-Call. The Satie trio make for pleasant listening and the Paganini original invariably brings out the best in performers due to its soaring buoyancy.

The recording has an intriguing engineering twist. It was recorded in Karlebo Church and then the acoustic of Chicago’s Symphony Hall was added and further tinkering ensued. Clearly spaciousness but no loss of detail was on the agenda. When Sjøgren and Hannibal recorded the Lalo mentioned above for the same label the players’s sound filled the acoustic quite dramatically.

One for gentle, lyrical listening.

Jonathan Woolf