Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908)
Music for Violin and Piano - Volume 3 Pablo SARASATE (1844-1908) Music for Violin and Piano - Volume 3
Bolero, Op. 30 [5:31]; Zortzico d'Iparaguirre, Op. 39 [1:53]; Serenade andalouse, Op. 28 [4:51]; Adios montanas mias, Op. 37 [2:15]; Le sommeil, Op. 11 [4:40]; Reverie, Op. 4 [4:36]; Introduction et fandango, Op. 40 [8:00]; Fantaisie-Caprice [9:05]; Pričre et berceuse, Op. 17 [4:27]; Confidences, Op. 7 [3:54]; Caprice sur Mireille de Gounod, Op. 6 [9:20]; Airs ecossais, Op. 34 [8:15]; Los pajaros de Chile [6:28]; Les adieux, Op. 9 [4:36] Tianwa Yang (violin); Markus Hadulla (piano) rec. Clara-Wieck-Auditorium, Sandhausen, Germany, 10-13 September 2007, 1-6 December 2010
NAXOS 8.570893 [78:46]

This is the first CD of Tianwa Yang’s that I have not been completely thrilled with, and the culprit is the engineering. The violin-and-piano CDs in this complete Sarasate series have been recorded in Germany, while the violin-and-orchestra discs are handled by a different team of producers in Spain. Although Yang plays with breathtaking tonal depth and dazzling emotional range, her violin simply doesn’t sound as good on this CD. It’s a bit shrill and vinegary at times with one or two of her most stunning moments swimming in reverb. Markus Hadulla’s piano is unaffected. That said, if we’ve learned anything from her orchestral recordings, it is that she is one of the best young violinists at the simple art of sounding gorgeous. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a terrific CD. There’s wonderful music here, particularly the delicious all-muted Le Sommeil Op 11 - listen to Yang’s violin sing beginning at 2:40!. The same goes for the newly-published Los pájaros de Chile, which Sarasate wrote with exotic flourish on a South American tour. The opening Boléro gives Tianwa Yang a chance to show off her proficiency at basically every challenge a violinist faces. All of them are demonstrated with light-heartedness and even humor. The Zortzico is a transcription of a tune by José Maria de Iparraquirre. It wastes no time introducing one of the irresistibly lovely tunes this CD overflows with. Sarasate springs another on us, sung by Yang with expansive poetry and exquisite vibrato, about two minutes into the Fantaisie-Caprice. Les Adieux is, arguably, not merely a perfect piece to end the program, but a perfect piece, full stop. Throughout the disc, Yang shows off her typical combination of extreme virtuosic ability - listen to the ease of her harmonics in Los pájaros - and heart-on-sleeve fervor. There is, as always, a passion and verve in her playing which feels very old-fashioned, like she stepped out of a time machine from the days when outsized musical personalities were draped in a thick mono hiss. The music does not demand much of Hadulla, except in Sarasate’s often elegant introductions, which he renders as sensitively as if he were accompanying lieder.

In sum: I can carp about the engineering if I like but Sarasate’s music continues to impress — the man apparently couldn’t write a worthless trifle, for they all give up pleasures — and Tianwa Yang continues to demonstrate that she is one of the most sensational violin talents of the new century. She gives everything she plays grand emotional sweep, or call it soul, so you hear both dazzling virtuosity and, more precious, super-heated all-in commitment. Yang’s Mendelssohn violin concerto is coming out at some point this year. Let’s hope her career, after seven CDs so far, is only just beginning.

Brian Reinhart

A lot of violinists are virtuosi, but few are as all-out passionate as Tianwa Yang in another disc of Sarasate surprises.

See also review by John Whitmore (April 2012 Recording of the Month)