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Le Violon De Rothschild
Thème - Mélodie Hébraïque for solo violin [0:57]
Dmitri SHOSTAKOVICH (1906-1975)
Sonata for violin and piano, Op. 134 (1968) [30:54]
Thème - Mélodie Hébraïque for solo piano [0:50]
Mieczyslaw WEINBERG (1919-1996)
Sonata No. 5 for violin and piano, Op. 53 (1953) [21:56]
Abraham GOLDFADEN (1840-1908)
Berceuse juive: Raisins et Amandes [3:06]
Georges PERLMAN (1897-2000)
Hébraïsch [4:49]
Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943)
Mélodie Hébraïque [4:54]
Lyonel Schmit (violin)
Julien Guénebaut (piano)
rec. September 2010, l’Arsenal de Metz
FONDAMENTA FON-1110009 [67:32 + 67:32]

This is a strange release. Clearly a labour of love, the musical and engineering standards are particularly high, and the project has many compelling aspects.
 
To begin with, there is a distinctive title: Rothschild’s Violin, and this encourages the browsing music-lover to anticipate Shostakovich’s completion of Fleischmann’s opera of that name. It is true that this project links with that history. However, in fact this proves a decoy, and while the opera is mentioned in dispatches in the somewhat complex accompanying booklet, it does not otherwise feature. Instead, what we have here are two violin sonatas, one by Shostakovich and the other by Weinberg, and a few short pieces inspired by Hebrew melodies that were close to the hearts of these two composers.
 
The performances are committed and they are very fine. The recorded sound is exemplary, and comes on two alternative CDs on which the music is exactly the same. One is engineered for hi-fi sound, the other for listening in the car in what is described as ‘Mobility Mastering’. Those words on the front cover of the case are the only indication of this; for a full and proper explanation one needs to explore the Fondamenta website. This lack of clarity is a surprising state of affairs and another indication that those working in the industry don’t necessarily have much feel for the product they are selling.
 
Then there is the packaging. This is enthusiastically ambitious, with a 30-page booklet in French and English, stapled to the inside of the case’s fly-cover. Open it up a couple of times (literally) and the stapling begins to come adrift and the paper starts to tear. The densely argued introductory essay, the extended artist biographies and, of greatest interest, the original Chekhov short story entitled Rothschild’s Violin, are therefore awkward to read. Why not house the booklet in a wallet-style pouch? It might have been cheaper to produce and it would certainly have been more effective
 
Behind the enthusiastic hype what we have here are two splendid performances of the two violin sonatas, enhanced by the various related movements. Set against this the fact that the additional features and the ambitious packaging don’t really come off.
 
Terry Barfoot