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Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
La Gitana [3:02]; Gypsy Caprice [5:16]; Berceuse romantique [4:02]; Syncopation [1:46]
John CORIGLIANO (b.1938)
The Red Violin Caprices for Solo Violin [9:43]
Paul SCHOENFIELD (b.1947)
Four Souvenirs for Violin and Piano [15:59]
Henri VIEUXTEMPS (1820-1881)
Souvenir d'Amérique - Variations on "Yankee Doodle", Op.17 [4:54]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Selections from "Porgy and Bess" (transcribed by Jascha Heifetz) [17:05]
TRADITIONAL
Cape Breton Island Fiddling: Hector the Hero [4:06]; Hey, Johnny Cope!; Tullochgorum; Jean's Reel [5:57]
Caroline Goulding (violin), Christopher O'Riley (piano, except Cape Breton Island Fiddling), Janine Randall (piano, Cape Breton Island Fiddling)
rec. 2009
TELARC CD80744 [67:31]

Experience Classicsonline


This disc was a wonderful surprise for me. Caroline Goulding is a first-class violin virtuoso, with beautiful tone and assured technique. But we've heard those before. What makes her playing rare is that she has this elusive, indefinable yet unmistakable personality, which is felt throughout the album. This is a collection of miniatures, yet it is not another one of those I-can-do-all-Heifetz-encores discs. The program is an interesting mix of the well-known, little known and totally unknown, and is wisely planned so that it never becomes boring. It has real freshness and can be listened to in single breath, only gaining in pleasure with every repetition.

I want to beg pardon of the fine pianists Christopher O'Riley and Janine Randall. They do their best and certainly contribute a lot to the excellence of the result, but this is Caroline's disc. Not least, that's because half of the tracks were composed or arranged by great violinists - Vieuxtemps, Kreisler, Heifetz - for their own lustre. In their pieces, the piano part is rarely more than a bass-and-rhythm component.

The disc opens with Kreisler's gypsy rhapsodies, presented with power and finesse. The violin's voice is a good, dark-honey-hued mezzo-soprano, and could be a great Carmen, were it human. Berceuse romantique is full of soft light, waving veils and sincerity. Syncopation is a standard ragtime: you've heard one, you've heard them all.

John Corigliano's unaccompanied Red Violin Caprices are the most serious music in the album. Even without knowing the underlying story, this is a fascinating set of variations. Earth and Heaven, grief and will, darkness and light tell their stories in less than ten minutes. I am grateful to the composer and the violinist for this truly wonderful experience. Goulding's playing is heartfelt and virtuosic.

Pause before you plunge into Paul Schoenfield's Four Souvenirs. Like his popular Café Music, this is music for entertainment, but with a lot of heart and thought. Without pretending to open up new horizons, it is elegant and sincere. And again, Caroline Goulding seems at home within the idiomatic worlds of the four parts of the suite: Samba (brilliant, with more than a trace of foxtrot), Tango (very sensual), Tin Pan Alley (softly nostalgic) and Square Dance (quite rambunctious).

Henri Vieuxtemps apparently planned to bring down the houses with the "Yankee Doodle" Variations during his American tours. All starts from afar, and the listener is completely unprepared for what comes after. The variations don't dig deep musically - probably the tune is too plain for it, or Vieuxtemps had other goals. Still, this is a dazzling piece, quite infectious.

Heifetz's "Porgy and Bess" transcriptions are probably the best known music here. What is interesting, comparing to his superstar colleagues Vieuxtemps and Kreisler, is that Heifetz grants a more substantial role to the piano. If not an equal partner, the piano at least has its share. So, here one can also appraise the skilful pianism of Christopher O'Riley. You enter the world in Summertime, feel the genuine grief and pain of My Man's Gone Now, bathe in gentle love in Bess, You Is My Woman Now, have fun in It Ain't Necessarily So, and say a lighthearted good-bye in There's A Boat. Like pearls on a string, all parts of the suite shine. And more than once I caught myself thinking that two violins were playing!

Finally, we hear two tracks of Cape Breton Island Fiddling. Now, speak of a different world! Between the spacious vistas of Hector the Hero and the unstoppable swirl of Jean's Reel, I, to my surprise, found in my soul some improbable Celtic yearning. The dance medley has irresistible drive. And Caroline does it right: there are no cheap effects here, but a showcase of genuine fiddling prowess. Bravo!

This may be an introductory album of a rising star, but not even the greatest violinists could be less than proud of such a disc. I did not notice a single weak note or intonation. The technique is stunning. The mood of each piece is perfectly caught. And the music is just interesting. One common problem of such discs is a surfeit of sugar: some of them are like eating wedding-cake icing with a spoon. Not the case here! The music is sunny, cheerful, laughing, but its sweetness is natural, not chemical. Caroline's feeling for the music is amazing. I had much pleasure listening and re-listening to this disc.

And did I mention that Caroline is just turned seventeen? Doesn't matter, actually.

Oleg Ledeniov 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


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