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CD: Crotchet

Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
1. Zigeunerweisen, Op.20 (1878) [8:59]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
2. The Lark Ascending (1914) [15:57]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
3. Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A Minor (1863) [9:19]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
4. Méditation from Thaïs (1894) [5:39]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
5. Tzigane (1924) [10:02]
Avro PÄRT (b.1935)
6. Spiegel Im Spiegel (1978) [9:50]
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
7. Vocalise, Op.34 No.14 (1916) [6:11]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
8. Après une Rêve (1920) [2:41]
Nicola Benedetti (violin)
Alexi Grynyuk (piano: 6-8)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vasily Petrenko (1, 3, 5); London Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton (2); London Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Harding (4)
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 22 March 2008 and 5 December 2008; Henry Wood Hall, 19-21 June 2007; Walthamstow Town Hall, 5 January 2005; Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth, 15 April 2008.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 476 3399 [68:54] 

Experience Classicsonline

Nicola Benedetti released this her fourth album on the Deutsche Grammophon label in September 2009. “Fantasie” reflects the work of an artist undergoing the maturing stages of her career. The concerto repertoire held centre-stage in her previous albums. “Fantasie” moves into the realm of violin favourites and showcases Benedetti’s almost instinctive virtuosic and gypsy-rich rhythmic sensibilities. These she indulges in the most genuine and beguiling manner. Whether it is in the nostalgic sonorities of Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel (lit: “Mirror in the Mirror) or in the devilish runs of Ravel’s Tzigane, Benedetti’s sound and execution blend with the most natural finesse.

According to Benedetti, violin virtuosity is “not simply about dazzling display”. It entails all the “attributes required to project the violin’s full expressive range and intensify its lyrical voice.” The purpose is to develop what she calls “a full technical arsenal.” Take Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, where Benedetti fulfils what she preaches. She projects the violin’s expressive range and deploys a vivid and lyrical palette. Like the Sarasate, Ravel’s Tzigane has a rich lineage that goes back to the rich gypsy violin tradition. This showpiece reflects a marriage between Benedetti’s gifts of musicianship and wizardry. The Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, once the war-horse of the Belgian violinist Arthur Grumiaux, receives an equally sensual interpretation from the younger violinist. Here, Benedetti matches the intrinsic beauty of Saint-Saëns’s melodic writing with solid articulation. In the trinity of phrasing, bowing and balance she achieves the highest standards.

One other aspect to this album is what Benedetti identifies as “the introvert elements”; in other words, the underlying meaning of the music. Take Massenet’s Méditation from “Thaïs”. This intermezzo captures the essence of love in musical form. Benedetti and her English musicians make a heartfelt dialogue of this exquisite work and also bring out its “religious conscience”. Likewise, Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending - a “Romance for Violin and Small Orchestra”. It is a visionary statement, inspired by George Meredith’s eponymous poem of 1895. Benedetti pours out her inner self with a solemn grace that hovers over the sustained orchestral platform.

The highlight comes with Pärt’s Spiegel Im Spiegel. This is a musical prayer, that adopts the most simplified and minimal materials to establish a spiritual essence. Triadic arpeggios in the piano part are skilfully played by Alexi Grynyuk. The violinist complements these with stepwise melodic statements. This moving account brings to mind what Pärt himself has said of this music: “(It is) like white light that contains all colours.” The other pieces, including Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise (transcribed by the composer and edited by Josef Gingold) and Fauré’s Après une Rêve (transcribed by Mischa Elman), also serve to “transport the listener.”

Benedetti takes her listener by the hand on a musical journey and brings to the violin a rare virtuosity.

Patrick P.L. Lam 



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