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Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Fantasy on Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet [14:33]
Fantasy on Gounod’s Faust [16:45]
Fantasy on Gounod’s Mireille [18:41]
Diego Tosi (violin), L’Orchestre de Chambre Mediterranee/Daniel Tosi
rec. 2018, Chapelle Saint-Surninin, Pyrenees-Orientales, France
SOLSTICE SOCD353 [50:02]

The three sets of variations presented here are youthful works that precede Sarasate’s famous and popular Carmen Fantasy. These are not the composer’s original versions of the Gounod fantasies. Daniel Tosi has taken upon himself to expand and enhance these early pieces and in doing so pay further homage to the melodic genius of Gounod. Tosi has lengthened each work substantially, thus allowing Gounod’s melodies more time to establish themselves rather than just presenting flashes of melody as heard in the first drafts. His arrangements also utilise a string orchestra with interplay between the solo violin and the sections of the orchestra creating dialogue and discussion in the same timbre and thus avoiding conflict. Unashamedly these are re-compositions carried out to celebrate and contribute to the 200th birthday celebrations of Gounod.

The Fantasy on Mireille is really a short suite of 5 movements with the famous ‘Valse-Ariette’ and the superb aria ‘Anges du paradis’ taking centre stage. The fantasy is topped and tailed with an introductory lively ‘Caprice’ and a sparkling virtuosic ‘Final’. In the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy, Tosi has included the aria ‘Ah! Leve-toi, seul’ which immediately follows the sparkling ‘Valse Caprice’. The treatment of the marvellous ‘Valse de Juliette’ is something of a toe-tapper. In true Sarasate fashion the ‘Final’ gives the soloist plenty of musical fireworks and technical wizardry to impress the audience. The Faust Fantasy includes the diabolical arias (added by Tosi) and some familiar melodies that also appear in the well-known Faust Ballet Music – ‘Dance antique’ and ‘Les Nubiennes’. The piece ends with a thrilling set of variations on the Faust ‘Valse’ which gives the soloist further chance to display his virtuosity.

These arrangements are for a small orchestra of 16 string players including the soloist. The effect is small scale but very appealing, with an atmosphere of the salon pervading proceedings. The soloist is slightly forward of the orchestra but not to such an extent as to mask the orchestral contribution. The playing is alert and full of joy, with Diego Tosi in fine, playful form. The recording is clear and the strings have an attractively dark, nutty tone quality. This is a disc that could be classified as easy listening. Tunes are the order of the day and even though the playing time is miserly this CD will bring much pleasure.

John Whitmore

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