The most remarkable thing about this recording is the age of its youthful executant: Spanish violinist Elina Rubio was a mere sixteen — or maybe even fifteen, one can’t quite tell from the booklet — when she recorded this recital with Graham Jackson in Dresden. She is surely one of the youngest – if not the youngest – fiddle player ever to have recorded both of Ernst’s pyrotechnical killers, the Last Rose of Summer
variations and Der Erlkönig
. Not that there is much let–up in the remainder of the programme: Paganini, Ysaÿe, Sarasate and a smattering of Kreisler, Rimsky and the like.
Colours are certainly being nailed to the mast, and there’s no concession to more soft-soap repertoire, so you’ll look in vain for genial charmers of old by Massenet, Fibich or Gluck. No, this is serious-minded ultra-bravura stuff from a serial award-winner and the youngest-ever student at Dresden’s ‘Carl Maria von Weber’ Hochschule für Musik where she studies with Igor Malinovsky and, as a result of a scholarship, was free to make this recording.
She starts with Pancho Vladigerov’s Song
from his Bulgarian Suite,
Op.21 No.2 a deceptively evocative start and with Jackson contributing some fine ‘drizzling’ piano lines. Incidentally, hardly anyone plays the first of the Op.21 set, a Lied. Paganini’s I Palpiti
, in Kreisler’s arrangement, is nicely characterised and the harmonics are true. Invariably comparison with more established and mature performers will reveal limitations that will, in time, be rectified. Thus there’s a rather, as yet, shapeless feel to her approach to Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice
– a difficult piece to characterise - and there are passages in Ysaÿe’s Sonata No.3 (the Ballade) which sound somewhat mechanical, as if she has yet to find her way inside the composer’s vocabulary.
It was certainly a mark of her confidence, and that of her teachers, that she has chosen to record Ernst. I prefer to see these performances as markers of her talent, rather than in any way examples of competitive performances. Much of Last Rose
remains ‘on the page’, brilliant though it is for someone of her age – it needs a Sherban Lupu or an Ilya Gringolts - and in the companion work by the Moravian master tonal variety, inflexion and an operatic sense of rubati are also lacking. Then again, so few established players would dare to take on this repertoire, let alone on disc, that her bravery must be saluted. She finishes with Zimbalist’s arrangement of The Golden Cockerel
and Sarasate’s Carmen
Fantasy, dispatched with some svelte playing.
Rubio has been well matched with Graham Jackson and well recorded. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from her in years to come.