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My Favourite Encores
William KROLL (1901-1980)
Banjo and Fiddle [2:57]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
Piano Pieces Op.7; Love Song (1891-93) (arr. Jaroslav Kocian) [6:20]
Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Dance No.1, Op.1 (1926) [4:39]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Introduction and Tarantella, Op.43 (1899) [5:05]
Joseph ACHRON (1886-1943)
Hebrew Melody, Op.33 (1911) [5:34]
Roland ROBERTS
Lullaby for a Little Girl (2013) [3:26]
Variations on Mer Hayrenik [7:35]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No.17 (1869) (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [3:58]
Sogomonyan KOMITAS (Komitas Vardapet) (1869-1935)
The Crane [3:58]
Edward BAGDASARIAN (1922-1987)
Rhapsody [11:16]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Nocturne in C sharp minor (arr. Nathan Milstein) [4:13]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Romance in E minor (1878) [4:50]
Ani Batikian (violin)
Roland Roberts (piano)
rec. undated, The Old Chapel Studio, Norfolk
OWLY 001 [64:16]

These are the self-confessed favourite encores of Armenian-born Ani Batikian, who took advanced studies in London where she worked with Hu Kun. Later still she studied with Salvatore Accardo in Cremona. Together with her husband, Roland Roberts - himself a violinist as well as conductor and pianist - she essays a 12-item programme that contains enough out-of-the-way repertoire to keep one interested.
 
She starts with a tried-and-tested in the shape of William Kroll’s Banjo and Fiddle, played at a good lick though perhaps wanting in a degree of witty badinage in the exchanges between the evoked instruments. Josef Suk’s Love Song is one of his piano pieces, Op.7, and a favourite of pianists - Ivan Moravec plays it beautifully and so before him did Jan Heřman - but it was arranged by Suk’s fellow Czech fiddler, the commanding virtuoso, Jaroslav Kocian, for violin and piano. In this guise it became a particular favourite of Soviet-era fiddlers - Kogan, Oistrakh and Barinova. Batikian and Roberts play with requisite warmth. Khachaturian’s early Dance was another Oistrakh favourite and this receives a particularly thoughtful, well-adjusted reading from Batikian.
 
It’s probably inevitable that Sarasate is here, in the shape of the Introduction and Tarantella, which receives a slightly cautious, occasionally over-metrical interpretation. She brings refinement and elegance - but not a great deal of overt expression - to Achron’s Hebrew Melody; for the last named quality you’ll need to seek out Elman, Heifetz, Hassid and Seidel. Roberts contributes a very charming welcome to his and Batikian’s first child, Lullaby for a Little Girl - a slightly filmic lullaby. They show discrimination in selecting one of the less often recorded of the Brahms Hungarian Dances and cement it via Komitas’s The Crane which is a lovely discovery - wistful, and lonely, and delightfully played.
 
Another rarely heard piece is Edward Bagdasarian’s Rhapsody, by some way the longest single piece in the selection and not well known in the West. Fiddlers such as Agaronyan, Tsitsikyan and Vardanyan recorded it in years past - though I’ve only ever heard Akop Vardanyan’s Melodiya LP of it - and so this is a splendid opportunity to hear it, up-to-date. Originally for violin and orchestra, and arranged for violin and piano by the composer, it’s a free-flowing affair infused with rich folkloric hues and genuinely lyrically impressive. Bit long for an encore though. It’s always good to hear the Chopin-Milstein Nocturne, as my impression is that it’s fallen out of favourthese days - more’s the pity. I could think of better things really than Elgar’s early Romanceas it’s not very distinctive, but it’s well played. We end with a nod at Batikian’s country of birth because Mer Hayrenik is its stirring National Anthem. Roberts has embraced it in a nineteenth-century style, all rather Paganinian or Lipinskian in its theme and variations. It sounds suitably virtuosic.
 
There are some useful, brief notes by Roberts who has been burning the midnight oil a bit too hard if he thinks Elgar took violin lessons from Albert Sammons.
 
This is a very nice disc, reflecting well on both musicians. It’s a good calling card for them.
 
Jonathan Woolf 


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