Maxim Vengerov now confronts - and conquers - one of the supreme challenges all great violinists must face: The Brahms violin concerto. This beautiful, virtuosic work has defined careers from Heifetz to Perlman. Vengerov's turn has come, and his rich, burnished tone and impassioned phrasing make this one of the standout concerto CDs of the year. The soulful partnership of Vengerov and Barenboim (one of his most important mentors) is also a strong selling point.
The works on this CD stem from the early and from the late period of Debussys creative life, and are for these reasons not typical Debussy, in the sense that they eschew the impressionistic features so often associated with the composer. The piano trio is a sumptuously romantic work, with echoes of Schumann and Franck, whereas the cello sonata and violin sonata are part of the 6 sonata project which Debussy started in 1915, but didnt complete because of his untimely death in 1918 (only 3 sonatas were composed). The music is transparent, with neoclassical hints, and sometimes with Stravinskian bite and humour. The musicians on this CD, Federico Guglielmo, Luigi Puxeddu and Jolanda Violante have won their spurs mainly in Early Music; therefore their view on these works is fresh and open, with infectious esprit and zest. As bonus a series of short and much loved pieces in arrangements: Reverie, Arabesque, Minstrels, La fille aux cheveux de lin, and two early original miniatures for cello and piano.
A pupil of Fauré, Louis Aubert moved in the same circles as Ravel, Debussy, Koechlin and others and was considered in his day to be one of the most original French composers. With its evocatively impressionistic images of seascapes, the night and Spain, Sillages is amongst the most significant French piano works of the early 20th century. The intensely expressive and impassioned Violin Sonata is Aubert’s only large-scale work in abstract Classical form and the distinctive Feuille d’images is a varied collection of educational pieces. The fiery Habanera, Aubert’s most frequently performed orchestral work, is heard in the composer’s own transcription for piano four hands.
Armando José Fernandes was a celebrated composer, musician and radio broadcaster in 20th-century Portugal. He was an integral member of the ‘Grupo dos Quatro’ – alongside Jorge Croner de Vasconcelos, Fernando Lopes-Graça and Pedro do Prado – which exerted substantial influential over Portuguese music in the mid-1900s.
Recordings such as this superb one serve to remind us that though we may think we know the output of the major composers, there are still treasures to be discovered. Works for individual instruments find their way into recital programs but often lie in shadow of the 'big works' for the concert.
George Enescu (1881-1955) was known primarily as one of the great virtuoso violinists of his day, although he was also a celebrated conductor and influential teacher of his instrument – Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, Ivri Gitlis, and Christian Ferras were just a few of the great violin soloists of the latter half of the 20th century who passed through his classes in Paris. Apart from the First Romanian Rhapsody, it is only recently that Enescu, the composer of a small but substantial catalogue of works, has come to the fore and this set, comprising his three completed symphonies and his best-known Violin Sonata, should further enhance his reputation.
The Medtner sonata is the principal work here. Of the three that he wrote the Third (Epica) is perhaps the most intricately worked and, at over 40 minutes, certainly the most substantial. At times it seems almost too long for its own good and for that reason it needs a very persuasive and masterly performance in order to project its strengths. Fortunately Vaditn Repin's and Boris Berezovsky's performance here is about as persuasive as you can get — Repin is lyrical and passionate and has plenty of fiery temperament for this music, and he is ideally complemented by Berezovsky's equally splendid playing. Much is made of the sonata's lyrical and melodic abundance (the Scherzo is delivered with great panache) and Repin's choice of tempo for all movements is expertly judged — compared to Alexander Shirinsky and Dmitri Galynin, Repin comes in faster in just about all movements; even so I still find the finale a little overworked and extended for the material.