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La Folia
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)
Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani
Tomaso Vitali (1663-1745)
Chaconne in G minor
Maria Theresia von Paradis (1759-1824)
Sicilienne (attrib.)
Arcangelo Corelli (1653-1713)
Violin Sonata in D minor, op. 5 no. 12 ‘La Folia’
Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)
Violin Sonata in A major, GT 2.A16
Violin Sonata in G minor, GT 2.g05 ‘Devil’s Trill’
Fritz Kreisler
Variations on a theme of Corelli in the style of Tartini
Sebastian Bohren (violin)
Stringendo Zürich/Jens Lohmann
CHAARTS Chamber Artists
rec. 2021/22, Reformierte Kirche Oberstrass, Zürich
Details of arrangements after review
AVIE AV2513 [61]

The original theme called La Folia dates back to 15th century Portugal, and is one of the most used themes for variations and arrangement in all of western classical music. It is used as the title for this recording because Corelli’s very famous violin sonata based on La Folia is included, but also because all the works presented here are themselves arrangements in the spirit of the La Folia arrangements. Indeed, two of the works are arrangements of arrangements, and to have included the full details in the header would made it far too long and clumsy, so those details are found at the end of the review.

All seven works are in arrangements for violin and string orchestra, and are not “authentic” in the sense of staying true to the Baroque originals. The programme begins and ends with an original “in the style of” Kreisler composition. The Pugnani is one of the famous – or should that be infamous – works presented to audiences as long-lost Baroque works, but were in fact by the violinist himself. The Corelli/Tartini is based on two of Tartini’s variations on a Corelli sonata, adapted and extended with further variations and a piano accompaniment by Kreisler, and then further arranged for violin and strings (I told you it was complicated). The Corelli La Folia sonata is similarly a two-stage arrangement.

As long as you accept the premise of the arrangement style presented here, i.e. Romantic and virtuosic, you will love all seven works. I see no point in describing each individually, but don’t let that make you think that they all sound the same – nothing could be further from the truth. They range in duration from the Paradis at 3:27 to the Corelli at 11:28, and in mood from showy to intensely moving. If I was asked to pick a favourite, it would be the Vitali Chaconne. It is a relatively well-known piece – indeed I have reviewed a recording of it in its original form (review) – and in its almost eleven minutes, covers a huge range of emotions.

I knew of Sebastian Bohren, but had not heard any of his recordings. A quick search of our site finds three very positive reviews of earlier concerto recordings – Mozart (review), Hartmann/Mendelssohn (review) and Mendelssohn/Britten (review). I can add my praises of his playing to theirs. Dazzling when virtuosity is required, delicate when needed, and always with a glorious tone – no thin, harsh sound here (my pet peeve, some of you will recall). Of course his instruments help: a Guadagnini for most, a Strad for the Respighi.

Two string ensembles are involved in the recording, both young Swiss groups. The whole programme was recorded with CHAARTS, but Bohren was dissatisfied with his performance of the first three works, and went back into the studio, this time with Stringendo Zürich. They both play very well.

The sound is very immediate, perhaps a little too much so, as Bohren’s breath intakes are very audible in places. The booklet notes are described as “Tully Potter in conversation with Sebastian Bohren” and the first section has the violinist explaining how he fell in love with the tradition of the Baroque transcriptions. Commentary on the works themselves is clear, concise and informative.

When I requested this for review, it was more out of curiosity, but I found myself enjoying it more and more on each listen to the point where I am finding it difficult to move onto the next disc in my pile to review. Sebastian Bohren has given us a well-thought-out and original programme, which is brilliantly performed, one that is certain to feature in my Recordings of the Year.

David Barker

Arrangements for violin and strings
Kreisler/Pugnani: Manuel Naegeli
Vitali: Peter Petrof, after the violin & piano arrangement by Léopold Charlier
Paradis: Mariana Rudakevych
Corelli: Mariana Rudakevych, after the violin & piano arrangement by Hubert Léonard (‘La Folia: Variations sérieuses’)
Tartini (A major): Ottorini Respighi
Tartini (g): Ingolf Turban & Holger Frey
Kreisler/Tartini: Mariana Rudakevych

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