52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Paul PELLAY (b. 1965)
Thesaurus of violinistic fiendishness (2002-2004)
Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin)
rec. Church of St John the Baptist, Aldbury, 23-24 August and 6 October 2010
MÉTIER MSV28527 [67.40 + 43.28]

Experience Classicsonline

Any set of 2 CDs which entitles itself Thesaurus of violinistic fiendishness is really asking for trouble. In fact the music here is a very great deal more approachable than the title would suggest. The solo violinist is never asked to do anything against the nature of the instrument, playing on the wrong side of the bridge, hitting the instrument about - except on two occasions, and that for dramatic effect and not just because the composer has run out of things to do - or otherwise abusing it. We get a fair helping of modernistic techniques – glissandi, harmonics, left hand pizzicato – but there is nothing here that Paganini would not have recognised. We come to appreciate that the title is meant to be taken light-heartedly, and the innate good humour of the composer’s own booklet notes help us to appreciate this too.
The first ‘book’ indeed is largely pure satire, a series of portraits of various American politicians - the composer was living in the USA at the time - including in The war-monger’s hoe-down a portrait of an American president who cannot even remember his own national anthem. These lampoons are interspersed with more serious reflections, and the composer gives us a strong autobiographical background to the music in his very literate and readable booklet notes.
Once we move on to the second book, Black studies after Goya, the music becomes more insistent and less good-humoured, but if possible even more technically difficult. In the final Cannibal planet the player attacks the violin with what sounds like a hammer - a rare exception to the observation above regarding unorthodox techniques - as the unfortunate victim expires. After this the third book, Mid-South Reflections, is more straightforwardly autobiographical and derives from a period of three years when the composer lived in Memphis. The composer illuminates the programme behind each movement in his informative sleeve note and his depiction of an ice storm - presumably what we in Britain call a hailstorm - in … as glass particles descend … is superbly atmospheric.
The fourth book is a set of variations without a theme, and the final Notturno is beautifully evocative. The composer states in his booklet note that “with each book of the Thesaurus I made a point of doing something that I had not tried in the previous instalments” and the fifth and sixth books form a more unitary structure than in the free-standing first four, with the final section of the fifth book echoed in the opening of the sixth. This sixth book is again a set of variations, but the theme is not stated until the eighth section (of thirteen) forming both “a point of arrival and departure;” but unfortunately when it arrives it is not particularly memorable in itself.
The seventh book then acts as a “summation”. The first movement returns to the depiction of the - by the time of composition - former President Bush in a political squib entitled Diablo Tejano which is pizzicato throughout and gives a recognisable “appreciative nod” to Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale. This is great fun, with a counterpoint of slaps on the body of instrument like a manic line dance. The final Cosmic buckaroo brings us full circle with reference back to the opening chord of the whole work, “repeated ever more obstreperously”. This is a whirlwind finale of great energy. The quotations cited throughout this review give a flavour of the composer’s wryly humorous style of writing, which extends not only to his programme notes but delightfully to sections of the music itself.
This is perhaps not a pair of discs to listen to at one continuous sitting. Although there is plenty of variety, the sound of the solo violin - even when played as well as here - becomes too undifferentiated over an extended period. If one dips into a single ‘book’ of the thesaurus at a time - notwithstanding the links between the various books - the music cannot fail to enchant an audience and hold their attention.
Pellay was born in Italy, moving to England as a teenager and thereafter living at various times in the UK and the USA. Skærved is an excellent British player famed for his performances of the Bach solo partitas and sonatas, of which this cycle – of which he gave the world première in 2004 – may be regarded as a modern equivalent. The photographer who contributes two pretty standard pictures to the booklet gets a biography of equal billing therein. The acoustic of the delightful small village church in Hertfordshire is not really very atmospherically captured by the rather close recording - it could well be a normal recording studio - but at least it enables us to hear every detail of Skærved’s superlatively skilful playing.
Paul Corfield Godfrey














































































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.