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Yizhak Schotten’s Tribute to Lionel Tertis and William Primrose
see end of review for details
Yizhak Schotten (viola)
Katherine Collier (piano)
rec. December 2009 and January 2010, Britton Recital Hall of the University of Michigan School of Music
CRYSTAL RECORDS CD630 [59:40]

Experience Classicsonline


There have been tribute discs to William Primrose and to Lionel Tertis, but I’m not sure that there has ever been a joint salute to the Anglo-Scottish pairing before. Interleaving transcriptions by the two greatest violists of the twentieth century makes for engaging programming and Schotten, who is a Primrose student, has cannily selected items for good contrastive and expressive reasons.
 
In fact throughout the disc he alternates transcriptions by both men, starting with Primrose’s Haydn arrangement and ending with Tertis’s famous transcription of Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro. In most cases the transcribers themselves left behind recorded examples, so we can, if we wish, listen both to the transcriber himself and to a contemporary performer such as Schotten who is influenced most especially, naturally, by Primrose.
 
Contrasting performances between Schotten and his eminent predecessors is always a tendentious business as it’s up to younger generations to stamp their own mark on transcriptions, if they are any good, and have lasting value. To say that Schotten doesn’t play these pieces like Primrose or Tertis is merely to say that he plays them like Schotten, which is as it should be. Nevertheless I will indicate a few markers to show what he does, and how he plays these generally highly effective transcriptions, ones that have furnished violists with a good range of recital repertory for over four generations now.
 
According to Tully Potter’s notes, Primrose only recorded the Allegro di molto finale of the Haydn, but I think he recorded the opening Adagio as well in 1947. Schotten plays well here, but lacks Primrose’s witty rubati. Tertis takes the viola high in Liebesträume but Schotten copes well, though without his model’s deep richness of tone. Primrose’s brilliance and clarity of articulation are what sets him apart from other violists in the C.P.E. Bach Solfeggietto - his 1939 Victor recording with Joseph Kahn is an amazing example of just these qualities. Primrose recorded J.S. Bach’s Komm Süsser Tod, but not, I think, this Tertis arrangement. Of the Paganini, all that needs to be said is that when Mischa Elman heard Primrose plays these transcriptions, he is alleged to have muttered; ‘Huh, must be easier on the viola.’
 
I like the way Schott plays the Fauré transcriptions, especially Après un rêve, which I always feel Tertis plays a touch too quickly, on both his recordings. Schott gets it just right. Unlike Tertis he can stretch out in the Schubert Nacht und Träume and the results are very different. Tertis’ recording was on a 10” so he had to hurry. Schott plays the Allegro from Boccherini’s Sonata in A elegantly but without Primrose’s mobile and noble eloquence in his 1939 Victor, again with Kahn. It’s good to hear the two Arthur Benjamin transcriptions, though they’re often enough done by violists. I’ve got a feeling Schotten has listened to Tertis’s 1922 recording of the Grieg song, Jeg elsker Dig (Ich Liebe Dich) as the tempo and phrasing are very sympathetic to the original. The following year Tertis recorded Grieg’s Third Violin Sonata in his viola arrangement. Schott espouses nice echo effects in La Chasse, one of Tertis’ favourites amongst his own recordings - and where he was placed a bit further back from the recording horn than in the Grieg, to advantage. I’ve never heard Primrose’s recording of the Praeludium and Allegro but I’ve heard both of the transcriber’s, Tertis. Schotten plays well but needs a bit more panache.
 
This is a well-judged and executed dual tribute, finely recorded and annotated.
 
Jonathan Woolf 

Track listing
Arrangements alternately by Primrose and Tertis
Josef HAYDN (1732-1809)
Allegro from Divertimento in D [1:51]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebesträume No.3 [3:45]
C.P.E. BACH (1714-1788)
Solfeggietto [1:03]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Komm Süsser Tod [2:43]
Nicoló PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Caprices Op.1; 5 [1:40] and 13 [2:39]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve [2:57]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Tambourin en rondeau [2:04]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges [2:42]
May Breezes (Songs without Words) [2:26]
Luigi BOCCHERINI (1743-1805)
Allegro from Sonata No. 6 in A [4:05]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Nacht und Träume [4:31]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Minnelied [2:54]
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
From San Domingo [2:38]
Jamaican Rumba [1:43]
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Jeg elsker Dig (Ich Liebe Dich) [2:57]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
La Chasse [1:46]
Praeludium and Allegro [4:58]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Swan (Carnival of the Animals) [2:41]

 


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