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|1. I. Allegro non troppo|
|2. II. Scherzando (Allegro molto)|
|3. III. Intermezzo (Allegretto non troppo)|
|4. IV. Andante|
|5. V. Rondo|
|6. I. Allegro non troppo|
|7. II. Andantino quasi allegretto|
|8. III. Molto moderato e maestoso|
|9. Tzigane, Rhapsodie de Concert|
Maxim Vengerov's virtuosity is so spectacular, his tonal palette so varied, that even those who normally don't go for the colorful showpieces recorded here might be won over. His technique is secure enough for us not to notice it--we're never distracted from the music--and while the razzle-dazzle inherent in each of these pieces continue to amaze, it's the effect of the work itself we're left with. Even with Ravel's Tzigane, here certainly receiving one of the most forceful performances ever, it's the evocation of Gypsy abandon that remains in the forefront. The Lalo is pure electricity, with the glowing malaguena and seguidilla and vigorous Habanera almost inviting us to dance, and Pappano and the Philharmonia have just the right surge to keep the entire performance solid. The Saint-Saëns Third Violin Concerto is a wonderful work (the most substantial on the disc), with its combination of two zippy, showy movements sandwiching an andantino of sheer loveliness, and Vengerov's playing is stunning. The outer movements are so full of energy that the oasis in the center is positively heavenly. These may not be the best readings of these works available, but there's not a misplaced note, a moment to take issue with, or a dull spot. If this was Vengerov's only recording, he would forever be known as a great violinist. --Robert Levine
Top Customer Reviews
And it truly is a partnership. In this expressive, dramatic, perhaps truly 'operatic' music, Pappano proves to be just as supportive to instrumental soloists as he is to singers; he and the Philharmonia hang on Vengerov's every note. Considering just how many liberties a violinist can take in these works, that can't have been easy!Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And it truly is a partnership. In this expressive, dramatic, perhaps truly `operatic' music, Pappano proves to be just as supportive to instrumental soloists as he is to singers; he and the Philharmonia hang on Vengerov's every note. Considering just how many liberties a violinist can take in these works, that can't have been easy! As usual, Pappano is superb in building tension to dramatic climaxes and giving the music real punch and elan. Even more importantly, one of Pappano's specialties is coaxing gorgeous, radiant sound from orchestral strings sections (most noticeable here in the Saint-Saens) - all the more extraordinary considering he is a pianist and not a violinist! Vengerov indicated in recent interviews that he and the conductor have formed a very ardent mutual admiration society, and this is obvious listening to this album.
Throughout the program, Vengerov plays a 1727 Stradivarius that belonged to the legendary violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer (of Beethoven's `Kreutzer Sonata' fame), and he is more than worthy of this magical instrument. Best of all, it is clear that he is having a very good time! Vengerov has played these pieces from his early childhood and as he says in his booklet essay, they evoke strong feelings of nostalgia in him. They also clearly inspire his imagination, his expressivity, and his strong sense of drama.
In the 'Symphonie Espagnole', the violinist becomes a swaggering toreador in the first movement, a sprightly and good-humored seducer in the second, a strong, passionate dancer in the third and a serious, sad man (perhaps in mourning?) in the fourth. The famous final Rondo movement is a triumph of joy and energy, and note also the way Pappano handles the crescendo and decrescendo at its start.
The highlight of the disc, however, is the second movement of the Saint-Saens. This is Vengerov's favorite part of the concerto and he is absolutely sublime, making his violin sing with such purity and sweetness that one may cry. I am reminded of the Largo from the Bach Double Violin Concerto; as Vengerov gets higher and higher and softer and softer, it is as if one is ascending to some higher, ecstatic dimension (as he puts it, 'the music melts little by little, taking us to other planets, stars, spheres'). The contrastingly zingy outer movements of the concerto are played with equal aplomb.
Maurice Ravel wrote 'Tzigane' for the Hungarian violinist Jelly D'Aranyi, who inspired him by her spectacular playing of Gypsy melodies at a party. It is intended as a showpiece and Vengerov more than delivers. From the long, spare, and incredibly difficult solo cadenza (the orchestra doesn't come in for almost four minutes) to the bewildering pyrotechnics that conclude the piece, this Russian violinist obviously feels a strong kinship with the Gypsies this piece evokes, and so does his Italian-British-American conductor.
EMI's sound engineering is at its usual high standard, although some may complain that the violinist is placed too far forward. In addition to Vengerov's comments, the documentation also consists of a fine essay on the three works by Robert Orledge (both in English, French, and German), and portraits of all the composers. It is a pity that EMI provides no biographies of either Vengerov or Pappano.
I am not the expert on violinists and violin repertory that I am the human voice, so unlike some who may review this disc, I cannot say with any degree of authority whether or not it is 'the best'. Nevertheless, Vengerov's (and Pappano's!) renditions of the works recorded here are so superb that they are a perfect introduction for listeners new to the works or those who want them in modern sound, and I imagine that even many who collect violin recordings will find little to fault about them.
These are all popular pieces, and there are other excellent recordings -- I'm partial to Lin's Saint-Saens with Tilson Thomas -- but really, this is as good as anything out there.
Anyway, Vengerov produces a ravishing tone with his violin, and Pappano and the Philharmonia Orchestra provide sympathetic support in both works. Along with a brilliant performance of Maurice Ravel's Tzigane, Rhapsody de concert the program makes a most-attractive hour or so of music making.
Like the Naxos disc I had listened to previously, the EMI disc sounds wide ranging and natural, but with the added benefit of greater clarity. For this review, I compared the 2003 EMI to an older, 1976 EMI disc of the Symphonie with violinist Yan Pascal Tortelier, Maestro Louis Fremaux, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, plus a newer, 2013 Warner Classics disc with violinist Alexandre Da Costa, Maestro Carlos Kalmar, and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Ratio Television Espanola. Here, it was the Vengerov disc that sounded slightly more open and more transparent to me. I still have no hesitation recommending the Naxos, the earlier EMI, the later Warner Classics disc, or even some real oldies including Heifetz and Stern, among others, but if one wants to sample all of the best, the Vengerov disc (as I say, now available from Warner Classics, who took over the EMI label) is well worth one's investment of time and money.
John J. Puccio