One of the most grown-up review sites around


Search MusicWeb Here

     
  
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


16th-19th November


Shostakovich 4, 11 Nelsons
Transparent Granite!


Nothing but Praise


BrucKner 4 Nelsons
the finest of recent years.

superb BD-A sound

This is a wonderful set


Telemann continues to amaze


A superb disc

Performances to cherish

An extraordinary disc.

rush out and buy this

I favour above all the others

Frank Martin - Exemplary accounts

Asrael Symphony
A major addition


Another Bacewicz winner


match any I’ve heard


An outstanding centenary collection


personable, tuneful, approachable


a very fine Brahms symphony cycle.


music that will be new to most people


telling, tough, thoughtful, emotionally fleet and powerfully recorded


hitherto unrecorded Latvian music

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Piano Sonata in B minor S178 (1853) (arr. violin solo by Noam Sivan) [35:49]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.2 in D minor BWV 1004 (c.1720) [30:35]
Vera Vaidman (violin)
rec. March 2014, Classical Studio, Herzliya, Israel
ROMÉO RECORDS 7314 [66:26]

‘Too difficult’, said Itzhak Perlman when shown the score of Noam Sivan’s 2006 transcription, for solo violin, of Liszt’s Piano Sonata. Gidon Kremer said it was a crazy idea ‘but I like crazy ideas’. Meanwhile Joshua Bell was keeping his cards very close to his chest when he said it was ‘intriguing’. Ruggiero Ricci seems to have been the most loquacious, echoing Kremer, noting that ‘At first I thought you [Sivan] must be insane, but at a closer look I must express my admiration. It is very violinistic, and I look forward to hearing it recorded.’

Ricci died well before this recording was made, so we’ll never know how it sounded to him, but it has finally come to fruition and the violinist who has put it on disc for the first time is Russian-born Vera Vaidman. There’s a very nice passage in the booklet that quotes from The Chronicle Herald, a Canadian publication, which offers a mini-commentary on the transcription. It calls it a thesaurus of violin playing, a marvel of economy, relevance, and thematic clarity. It rightly draws attention to the virtuosic figuration in the accompaniment and to the many violinistic devices employed. Just the double-octaves alone, let alone the pizzicato fugal passage, would be enough to strike fear into many a fiddler’s fingers, let alone hearts.

It’s an outrageously difficult piece of music and leaving aside the obvious questions – who will ever programme it and does it have any independent life as a transcription? - it should be judged on its merits, at least. Fascinating though it is, it strikes me that it sounds more like an accretion of technical devices than a transformation into another instrumental medium. The listener is so fixated on the punishing harmonics, the incredible arpeggios, the triple-stops and so on that he is caught between listening to a piece of music and a lexicon of a super-virtuoso’s arsenal. The work could end up sounding more like an extended 35-plus minute hyper-kinetic study than a creative act in itself. I found my mind constantly wandered to the virtuosic means by which Liszt’s writing was transformed rather than listening to the musical argument itself. This, however, may not be other listeners’ experience.

Vaidman certainly throws herself into the task with remarkable sang-froid. The recording is razory and this accentuates a bluntness of speaking, a rawness that is sometimes uncomfortable. Not all the outrageous demands are fully met – it would need a Ricci to maintain tonal allure as well as technical legerdemain: Kremer I’d have thought would be too wiry-toned. Indeed from a comment in the booklet, the transcriber himself seems to time the work at 30 minutes, five minutes faster than it’s played in this recording. Perhaps that says something for the colossal demands he has made of the executant. In its violinistic guide the music is up to ten minutes slower than the fastest recordings of the Piano Sonata.

She has coupled it with Bach’s Partita No.2 and again the recording is somewhat unsympathetic. Thus her tone is unwarmed and sometimes in certain higher positions she can sound tonally starved. Her playing alternates resinous vigour with quite a measured approach – the Sarabande is taken slowly, for instance.

Notwithstanding this, the Liszt is the focus of this disc. It’s got the look of a ‘stunt’ recording, but as Ricci noted, it’s conversant with violinistic matters to a high degree. It’s worth hearing – admiration for the transformation and the performance will depend on one’s enthusiasm for the whole undertaking.

Jonathan Woolf




 




Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and keep us afloat

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Obtain 10% discount


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger