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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.

Hideko Udagawa’s earlier recordings for Nimbus Alliance have been of later repertoire: her 1989 recording of the Brahms and Bruch violin concertos with the LSO and Sir Charles Mackerras on NI6270 earned the plaudits of Stephen Greenbank – review – and William Kreindler thought her recording of the Khachaturian Violin Sonata the best available (NI6269 – review).

She has developed a reputation for recording previously unrecorded music and three such premieres are claimed for the new recording.  In the case of the Tartini the claim needs to be qualified: instead of performing the ‘Devil’s Trill’ with continuo, she reverts to what she believes to have been the composer’s original intention of playing solo.  Robin Stowell’s notes relate the story of how Tartini dreamed that the Devil had played the music to him, woke and tried as best he could to recapture it.  More importantly he cites a letter from the composer in which he explains that performance without bass was his ‘true intention’.

With or without continuo the sonata abounds in pyrotechnics and Udagawa throws them off with abandon.  I have to admit not to being a fan of showy music such as this sonata and the Paganini Caprices, but I am certainly highly impressed with her technique.

The Vivaldi, too, is a premiere only in its present form, a transcription of the opening movement of the Violin Sonata RV8, discovered by Udagawa in a Russian edition.

To apply the term ‘Baroque’ to Karl Stamitz (Karel Stamic) is stretching things somewhat.  The members of this Bohemian family who were prominent in the ‘Mannheim school’ are usually classed as early classical composers.  This Violin Concerto is a work in the galant style – think of the Haydn cello concertos or early Mozart.  It’s an attractive work with a particularly jaunty finale and it receives a stylish performance which ensures that I shall be returning to it.

Kreisler wrote a number of pieces in imitative style.  His own recording of this concerto is available (Documents 220043 and Naxos 8.110922) and Gil Shaham has recorded it as the filler for his version of the Four Seasons (DG 4779971).  It’s a very enjoyable work but I don’t think I would ever have mistaken it for a baroque concerto in a blind test, let alone for Vivaldi, though it seems to have fooled the experts of the time until Kreisler admitted the deception.  In their defence, Vivaldi was almost unknown at the time (1927) and remained so until Karl Münchinger’s recording of the Four Seasons captured the public’s imagination.  The best thing to do is to enjoy it in the same spirit as Respighi’s recreations of older music in Gli Uccelli and Ancient Airs and Dances.  Shaham spins out the middle movement, andante doloroso, a little more but I enjoyed Udagawa’s interpretation.

If Udagawa and Kraemer refuse to become too doloroso in Kreisler, where they are closer to Kreisler’s own tempo than to Shaham, they capture the elegiac and often plangent mood of the Chaconne attributed – doubtfully – to Vitali which rounds off the recording.  It’s another showpiece, especially in the elaborations which it has accrued over the years, but it’s more than that and I greatly enjoyed this performance, with a revised orchestral part by Danyal Dhondy.  There’s very little competition for this beautiful work in its orchestral form or, indeed, with the violin, with transcriptions for recorder.

All the performances are first-rate, with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Nicholas Kraemer ideal accompanists.  The recording is very good and the notes in the booklet are highly informative.  Clearly they were written in consultation with Udagawa – not always the case, with notes sometimes at odds with what we hear – and all the better for it.

Udagawa’s earlier Nimbus Alliance releases were recorded some time ago but the new album dates from 2014.  On the basis of this new release I hope that means that we can expect other recordings from her in future.

Brian Wilson



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