Baroque Inspirations
Giuseppe TARTINI (1692-1770)
Sonata in g minor ‘Devil’s Trill’ for solo violin * [15:04]
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Prelude for solo violin ‘Andante in c minor’ * [3.00]
Karl STAMITZ (1745-1801)
Concerto in B flat for violin and orchestra * [17:25]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Concerto in C for violin and orchestra in the style of Antonio Vivaldi [11:05]
Tomaso VITALI (1663-1745) (attributed)
Chaconne in g minor for violin and orchestra [10:56]
* World Premiere
Hideko Udagawa (violin)
Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Nicholas Kraemer
rec. St. Jude’s Hampstead, London, 23 May 2014 (Tartini and Vivaldi); Queen’s Hall Edinburgh, 15-16 April 2014. DDD.

My last experience of reviewing Hideko Udagawa was in her recording of Khachaturian and Lyapunov for Signum Classics. I found the results disappointing. Now she appears with a newly-recorded and frankly rather odd-looking programme for Nimbus that flies under the title of ‘Baroque Inspirations’. The title could mean, I assume, either inspired works by Baroque composers or works inspired by the Baroque – the latter applying to Kreisler’s pastiche concerto. Whatever it means, the proof must lie in the playing. Here, once again, there are concerns.

There are two solo violin pieces, recorded closely in St Jude’s Hampstead, in London, and three orchestrally-accompanied pieces recorded a few weeks earlier in Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh. She opens with Tartini’s Devil’s Trill sonata. As no manuscript survives, and wishing to align the work more closely to the supposed nature of its composition – that famous Devilish dream Tartini had – she’s uses the Cartier version as a principal source but chooses to play it unaccompanied. She’s certainly not the first fiddler to want to do this. The English violinist Philip Newman sported his own unaccompanied version in the fifties and sixties, though he never recorded it. To those sympathetic, the idea is to present a solo phantasmagoria, but unfortunately the performance can’t support the premise. Udagawa’s tone is wiry and abrasive, as recorded, and there are simply too many accidents and intonation concerns for comfort. One admires the honesty of it but her favoured close-up recording is not to her advantage. The other solo work is a Prelude in C minor by Vivaldi, a transcription for solo violin of the preludio of his Sonata in C minor, RV8, from his Op. 2 collection. It lasts only three minutes and doesn’t ask for too much in the way of technical difficulty, and the result is much better though still not without tonal concerns.

The pieces recorded with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Nicholas Kraemer sound much better. Karl Stamitz’s Concerto in B flat is apparently a première performance on disc, which is a matter of interest and gratitude. The centrepiece is the lovely slow movement, lyric and rich, and deserving many a hearing. Udagawa plays it with generous feeling and good phrasing though there are still tonal deficiencies. The outer movements are a little too easy-going for my own tastes. I think Stamtiz should be played more propulsively than this. Kreisler’s Vivaldian confection has won a few converts in the last decade or so - Gil Shahan and Benjamin Schmid for two. This Udagawa-Kraemer performance strikes me as badly conceived all-round. Kraemer wants to turn it into Vivaldi with fast quasi-baroque tempi, whilst Udagawa seems to go along with the idea, spurning expressive detailing. What the composer showed in his recording with the RCA orchestra at the end of his performing career - and what a player versed in the stylistic metier such as Jean Pougnet showed in his 78rpm recording – is that one needs to play it on its own terms. The queasy emotionalism in the second movement shows all too clearly the limitations of an alternative approach. It should instead have nobility of utterance. The disc ends with a revised orchestrally-accompanied version of the Vitali Chaconne made by Danyal Dhondy. I’m afraid this just blunts immediacy and masks frailties.

Clearly I found much here disappointing but I commend the Stamitz - though those outer movements could go with more brio.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Brian Wilson
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