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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major, D 934/Op. 159 (1827) [25:51]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Valse-Scherzo for Violin and Orchestra in C major, Op. 34 (1877) [5:42]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Tzigane (1924) [9:20]
Franz WAXMAN (1906-1967)
Carmen Fantasy (1946) [10:30]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune (1892-1894) arr. Jascha Heifetz [6:39]
Heinrich Wilhelm ERNST (1814-1865)
Polyphonic Studies (6) for Violin solo: no 6, Variations on "The Last Rose of Summer” (1865) [8:19]
Eugène YSAŸE (1858-1931)
Sonatas (6) for Violin solo, Op. 27: no 3 in D minor "Ballade" (1924) [5:37]
Maxim Vengerov (violin)
Irina Vinogradova (piano)
rec. July 1989, Henry Wood Hall, London
BIDDULPH LAW001 [72:58]

I was at the 1990 Carl Flesch International Violin Competition in London during which Maxim Vengerov blazed his way to success and it was obvious that his was the greatest talent to be heard. He stood immeasurably superior to competitors, uniting technical facility with musical maturity quite startling in a 15 year old. What the audience and jurors encountered during the competition can be near-replicated in this CD, which was actually recorded the year before the competition, and released the same year by Biddulph. The company, which went into near-stasis, seems to be making a cautious return to the lists and that is very welcome. Anyone who was interested in the wunderkind would have picked up the CD nearly 30 years ago but it stands as a not-so-modest souvenir of his early talent. Vengerov’s subsequent career has not been without ups-and-downs but this early disc captures his pristine youthful talent in its first flush.

For so young a player his Schubert Fantasy in C receives a thoroughly mature and sophisticated reading. It’s no hardship to have Irina Vinogradova as a piano partner – a player of refinement and authoritative chamber instincts – and they make for a balanced, resilient and responsible duo. Vengerov’s control of atmospherics and dynamics is apparent here and indeed throughout. The programme was well-chosen. Schubert offers a test of concentration and architecture and Ysaÿe’s Sonata in D minor offers an examination of stylistic aura. It’s one that Vengerov only partly meets but that’s a result of perhaps rather too overt and exuberant a sense of the quality of violinistic effects – the music’s ghostly expressivity draws from him arguably too unbridled a response. Then again, there are many seasoned professionals who would struggle to replicate the young Vengerov’s technical reserves.

Meanwhile Ernst’s famously wrist-crippling The Last Rose of Summer variations luxuriates in a battery of left and right hand pizzicati, harmonics and intonation-defying theatrics – all surmounted with incredible composure. Ravel’s Tzigane is not too smeary – instead it’s exciting and vital – whilst there’s an appropriately veiled Debussy-Heifetz Prelude and a luscious, energetic and panache-laden Waxman Carmen fantasy to finish.

It’s good to welcome back this disc and label. Let’s hope they’ll revisit more of their back catalogue without undue delay.

Jonathan Woolf



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