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Romantic Journey
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Estrellita arr. Jascha Heifetz [3:41]
Grigoras DINICU (1889-194()
Hora Staccato arr. Jascha Heifetz [2:02]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Méditation from Thaïs [4:43]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Violin Sonata No.3 in D minor: Ballade (1923) [6:52]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Mélodie from Orfeo ed Euridice arr. Fritz Kreisler [3:15]
Niccolò PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Caprice, Op.1 No 1 [2:05]: No.21 [3:27]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Song of India from Sadko arr. Fritz Kreisler [3:22]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Polonaise de Concert, Op.4 (1852) [5:14]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Après un rêve (1877) [3:17]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Carmen Fantasy, Op.25 [13:01]
Haoli Lin (violin)
Hai Jin (piano)
rec. October 2015-March 2016, Robert J Werner Recital Hall, Cincinnati, OH
MSR CLASSICS MS1613 [51:35]

Chinese violinist Haoli Lin has constructed a 51-minute recital that smacks of days of yore when Titans such as Kreisler, Heifetz, Milstein and Francescatti – to name but four – bestrode the world’s concert stages. The only piece that might have given them pause is Ysaÿe’s Sonata as none of them recorded any of the sonatas. Otherwise it’s a programme that would not have looked out of place in 1938 – not that that should bother anyone.

In fact two of the above-named players – Kreisler and Heifetz – provide two arrangements apiece. Heifetz’s famously lovely arrangement of Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita gets the recital underway and one finds in Lin’s playing decidedly self-aware intimations of comparable performance practice to that of the masters of the day – rubato-conscious caressing, finger position changes, and Heifetz-slides included. To this armoury one can add the deftest of dynamics, and finely calibrated tonal resources. But listening again I found the performance, for all these virtues, stubbornly too slow and just a little manufactured in its responses. The Dinicu-Heifetz Hora Staccato – if you’ve heard the great Gypsy player’s own recording you’ll realise that it’s pretty much a fifty-fifty split compositionally between him and Heifetz - lacks a touch of swagger and thrill though technically it’s fine. The Méditation is warmly textured and not too distended, as it tends to be these days when some violinists equate breadth with profundity.

The Ysaÿe offers sonata grit amidst the sweetmeats. Lin plays the Third, the one dedicated to Enescu, and his recording and presence are quite vividly realised, as was not the case with Oscar Shumsky’s whose Nimbus cycle was magnetically played but recorded in a swimmy acoustic. Lin performs with commendable eloquence here, only lacking something of the melancholy of the first paragraphs. He plays two of the Paganini Caprices. Next to a powerhouse virtuoso such as Ricci, Lin’s performance of the First sounds cautious and subject to unnecessary commas but No.21 redresses things to some extent. Rimsky’s Song of India, and Gluck’s Mélodie are the famous Kreisler arrangements and reveal a sensitive tonalist and an admirable approach to legato; only a slight case of milking the Gluck robs it of true admiration. I prefer Heifetz’s rather military way with the opening rhythm of Wieniawski’s Polonaise, Op.4: Lin slightly gabbles the phrasing. His smoky lower strings come into their own in the final piece, Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy, where Hai Jin – whom I’ve yet to mention – lends considerable support, as she does throughout. MSR have helpfully separately tracked the four sections and Lin’s succulent slides bring the piece to verdant and athletic life.

Sensible notes vie with fine sound quality in Lin’s inaugural CD.

Jonathan Woolf



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