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Nimrod BORENSTEIN (b. 1969)
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 60 (2013) [27:53]
The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe, Op. 52 (2008-2009) [19:46]
If You Will It, It is No Dream, Op. 58 (2012) [8:39]
Irmina Trynkos (violin)
Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Ashkenazy
rec. Henry Wood Hall, London, 2016
Reviewed in CD stereo

This is a hugely enjoyable release - an absolute treat.

Nimrod Borenstein, Tel Aviv born, grew up in Paris before moving to London in 1986, where he studied violin at the Royal College of Music. Awarded a Leverhulme Trust scholarship, he studied with Paul Patterson at the Royal Academy, and is now an an Associate. His work is increasingly popular—Suspended (Op. 69), premiered at the Royal Opera House in the 2014/15 season, has received more than 100 performances worldwide. It is one of the few Borenstein works to be recorded, conducted by Laércio Diniz with das freie orchester, Berlin (Solaire SOL1001, 2016).

It seems, at first sight, all the more remarkable then that Vladimir Azhkenazy chose to record these world premiere recordings as part of his own 80th birthday celebrations. However, one can hear immediately why this truly great performer might lend his name to such a project. The music, fundamentally tonal, is both very memorable and attractive. To say it is well-made sounds rather like damning it with faint praise, but I mean something quite different. There is real craftsmanship allied to luminous and wonderfully clear textures. There is a strong rhythmical sense in all the pieces, an extraordinary ear for musical texture, great variety of tempo (a change from some contemporaries who seem unable to move outside slow, very slow, and dead slow…). Above all, Borenstein is a melodist, with some gloriously evocative tunes. Especially notable is his gift for the long-breathed line, often thrown across several instruments (as in the finale of If You Will It, It Is No Dream).
The major piece here is the Violin Concerto, unusually but not uniquely in four movements (as is Stravinsky’s). The work would make a worthy regular addition to the concert platform, both in its virtuosity and in its sheer élan and organisation. It was originally premiered by Dmitry Sitkovetsky with the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Marios Papadopolous. The orchestra is unchanged for this recording, and they play superbly. Irmina Trynkos is a splendid advocate for the work, warm and sensitive in her phrasing. She has an affinity with Borenstein. She premiered, as its dedicatee, his Sonata Concertante, which she has also recorded (not yet released).

The three movements of The Big Bang and Creation of the Universe have many of the same qualities, including strong contrasts and melodic richness. The second movement, an Adagio entitled Peace, has a quiet and placid surface, but there is a melancholic undertone. The final movement, Adam and Eve, is energetic and dancelike, but with interludes of tenderness.

The short If You Will It, It Is No Dream would make a terrific concert-opener. The reference in the title is to the creation of the state of Israel, but the piece is universal in expression, with especially memorable closing phrases.

The Chandos recording is splendid in clarity and warmth, something that suits the joie de vivre so wonderfully expressed throughout.

Michael Wilkinson
Previous review: Rob Barnett



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