Like many others Vadim Repin began his violin studies at a very early age, soon benefitting from the rigorous tuition of a great pedagogue—in his case, Zakhar Bron. Film footage from 1988 shows Bron’s uncompromising approach, demanding unquestioning obedience from his pupil. Whilst possibly not the most obvious way of encouraging musical intelligence in the student, this certainly had startlingly successful results with Repin. His initial recordings were for Melodiya, followed by Erato until 2005. He now records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon.
Repin’s mature playing on record testifies amply to the training he received in the former USSR, although from today’s perspective this perhaps results in a rather old-fashioned approach to style. Players trained recently in the West have assimilated some aspects of historical practice (especially in Baroque music) and there is, with the younger players, a sense of restraint in what we have come to accept as an international style of string playing. Ex-Soviet violinists come with expectations either of technical strength and the hallmarks of some of the most celebrated exponents of Soviet art (such as David Oistrakh or Kogan), or of slightly brutish renditions uniform across most repertory. Repin sits somewhere between these two characterisations. There are, certainly, moments of his Mozart, Schubert and Brahms performances here that indicate a rather outmoded approach to such works: a tendency for bombast in the 2008 Brahms, and a rather heavy use of vibrato especially in the Mozart Concerto No. 2 (1997), disregarding somewhat the conservative nature of these compositions. This does his insightful and exciting playing a disservice, however, for they are all highly capable performances. The Schubert D. 574 Sonata (1999) is particularly successful and a relatively rare item in a violinist’s discography, despite being a large-scale and important work.
The Strauss Sonata (2000) is a fine example of Repin at his best, successfully conveying the broad-scale musical rhetoric of a high-Romantic composition. Chausson’s Poème (1998) is played with great delicacy and poise, with some refreshingly leisurely pacing, whilst the Stravinsky-Dushkin Divertimento (2000) avoids unwarranted sugarcoating and provides a significant stylistic contrast to the bulk of Repin’s recorded output.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Milsom (A–Z of String Players, Naxos 8.558081-84)