Edouard LALO(1823-1892)
Symphonie espagnole, Op. 24 (1874) [34:26]
Concerto russe, Op. 29 (1879) [33:04]
Yuzuko Horigome (violin)
Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice/Marco Guidarini
rec. no details supplied
TALENT DOM 2910 904[67:30]

This is one of those discs that leaves a reviewer in a bit of a dilemma. Nothing at all about the disc is ‘bad’ in any respect. Much indeed is good but conversely I would be struggling to put a case for a collector on a limited budget to spend their money – the discs seems to be retailing around the £10/$15 mark - on this performance of either work before others. I would define these as performances one would have been very happy to have heard in the concert hall whilst lacking the character or insight to demand repeated listening. The violinist Yuzuko Horigome won the very prestigious Queen Elisabeth International Competition in Brussels some thirty years ago which puts her in an elite group; more recent winners include Vadim Repin and Nicoladj Znaider and previously to her success Gidon Kremer and Dong-Suk Kang only managed third. The Orchestre Philharmonique de Nice play perfectly competently and are decently recorded under the direction of Marco Guidarini. And yet every time I have put this disc on my mind has wandered. The big problem here is an absence of panache and personality. Clearly Horigome has the technical resource to play these pieces. But try the very opening gesture of the Symphonie Espagnol – to my ear the final note of this dramatic flourish is fractionally under the note but that is not the problem; it remains an arpeggiated figure and not a theatrical firework. Part of my problem is that I am coming to this disc fresh from being utterly beguiled by the stunning playing of Philippe Graffin on a Helios disc of French concerted works. Technically I would think Graffin has the edge but the enduring memory of that disc is his ability to spin webs of the most exquisite musical filigree. Horigome sounds leadenly earth-bound in comparison throughout the disc, not heavy in her playing just unimaginative. Likewise her orchestra are better when they are being bullishly muscular – the upfront recording giving the playing a beefy brusqueness that is quite exciting but they sound under-engaged and rather rudderless in the more lyrical passages. Graffin has a truly remarkable ability to produce the lightest gossamer strands of tone that have the feeling of effortless improvisation and fantasy, Horigome by contrast is phrasing by numbers.
The Symphonie Espagnol remains a popular work on disc so a collector is spoilt for choice with classic performances from just about every famous violinist who has ever entered a recording studio. One factor favouring the current disc is its choice of coupling. The Concerto Russe is a far rarer work which picks up neatly on Lalo’s predilection for exotica. The only other version of this work I have heard is from violinist Olivier Charlier accompanied by Yan Pascal Tortelier and the BBC Philharmonic. The coupling there is the even rarer Violin Concerto in F Op.20 that predates the Symphonie. The Chandos recording has been well received and is good although it would not feature in my top-20 Chandos discs. Horigome matches Charlier’s playing and the accompaniments are often quite similar although the Talent engineering lacks the glamour of Chandos. As a piece I find the Concerto Russe to be far less interesting than the Spanish excursion. It seems to be trying to be faux-Russian in mood and colour and in doing so looses its own identity. The Symphonie Espagnol manages to feel truer to Lalo’s proclivity for orchestral colour whilst being influenced by the Mediterranean sun.
Hence my dilemma; the better piece receives the duller performance, the lesser work being well played but not to a degree that should replace or supplant previous versions. A poorly translated liner-note completes the picture of a disc that is hard to recommend except with reservations. For Lalo completists.
Nick Barnard
A disc hard to recommend except with reservations.