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The Golden Violin; Music of the 20s
Daniel Röhn (violin)
Württembergisches Kammerorchester Heilbronn/Case Scaglione
rec. August 2018, Kulturforum Saline, Offenau
BERLIN CLASSICS 0301190BC [55:54]

The music is (largely) from the Golden 20s but the hero of this disc is Jascha Heifetz. Daniel Röhn has long admired the consummate mastery of the Russian violinist and if sent to a desert island would take the vignette recordings Heifetz made in the 1940s. Thus he has set about constructing an album that reflects these influences and as I have made it a reviewing habit to listen to Röhn’s recordings, there is a happily confluence.

That said, these aren’t the kind of arrangements that Heifetz recorded – unless you count the kind of thing he performed on radio broadcasts such as the Bell Telephone Hour where he was accompanied by an orchestra. A number of arrangers are credited for Röhn’s disc – Stephen Buck and Jarkko Riihimäki principally – and they have swollen the Gershwin-Heifetz pieces as well as the Suk and Burleigh evergreens. Whether you will enjoy these more glutinous iterations will depend largely on your susceptibility to the ethos as much as to the soloist’s performances.

There’s a genial five-minute potpourri from An American in Paris, two of the Gershwin-Heifetz Porgy numbers which inevitably sound less vibrant in this orchestral garb but a succulent and lyric look at the suite from the film Metropolis. The German violinist gets the chance for some forthright bowing in Burleigh’s Moto perpetuo and astutely navigates Mack the Knife, with a deft solo pizzicato passage and harmonics over orchestral pizzicati. Even better, from a purely lyric and reportorial perspective, is the gorgeous What Good Would the Moon Be from Street Scene. In an album such as this there needs to be a touch of bittersweet and this is duly provided by Chaplin’s The Flower Shop, from City Lights, which incorporates José Padilla’s La Violetera.
There’s a warmly textured The Land of Might-Have-Been, an Ivor Novello composition, the 18th variation from Rachmaninov’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini complete with ‘Parisian’ bandoneon – why shouldn’t fiddlers have the tune once in a while – and Suk’s Song of Love, which sort of works. Heifetz recorded Gweedore Brae with piano accompaniment, but he also performed with a small orchestra, something Röhn does here; it loses in simplicity but I hope it encourages more violinists to take it up. The final piece is When You Make Love To Me, composed by Jim Hoyle aka Jascha Heifetz.

I’ve made a habit of listening to Röhn because I like his stylish playing, something that must have a genetic inheritance, as he’s a scion of a famous line of violinists. He has less opportunity to stamp his mark in this album, partly as a result of the orchestrations and arrangements, which can draw attention away from his playing. He’s also not the kind of player who can always bend music to his will, as was Heifetz’s wont, for better and, sometimes, for worse. What he remains is a thoughtful, imaginative and colourful player and this is a popular calling card for his communicative art.

Jonathan Woolf
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
An American in Paris arr. S. Buck and J. Heifetz for violin and orchestra [5:09]
Porgy and Bess arr. S. Buck and J. Heifetz for violin and orchestra: Act II: It ain't necessarily so [2:43]
Porgy and Bess arr. S. Buck and J. Heifetz for violin and orchestra: Act III: Tempo di Blues [3:10]
Gottfried HUPPERTZ (1887-1937)
Metropolis: Suite arr. S Buck for violin and orchestra [8:03]
Cecil BURLEIGH (1885-1980)
4 Small Concert Pieces, Op. 21: No. 4. Moto Perpetuo arr. D. Beisse for violin and orchestra [1:12]
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Mack the Knife arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [2:32]
Street Scene: What good would the moon be? arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [3:42]
Charlie CHAPLIN (1889-1977)
Limelight: The Terry Theme arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [2:39]
City Lights: The Flower Shop arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [3:35]
Ivor NOVELLO (1893-1951)
The Land of Might-Have-Been arr. S. Buck for violin and orchestra [4:17]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43: Variation 18 - Andante cantabile arr. S. Buck for violin and orchestra [3:07]
Josef SUK (1874-1935)
6 Piano Pieces, Op. 7: No. 1. Song of Love arr. S. Buck for violin and orchestra [6:04]
Gweedore Brae arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [3:22]
Friedrich HOLLÄNDER (1896-1976)
Ich weiß nicht, zu wem ich gehore arr. J. Riihimaki for violin and orchestra [3:21]
Jascha HEIFETZ (1901-1987)
When You Make Love to Me (Don't Make Believe) arr. S. Buck for violin and orchestra [2:50]

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