Classical Music Home

The World's Leading Classical Music Group

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?
Keyword Search
in
 
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...

Robert Maxham
Fanfare, September 2009

Like his Seventh and Ninth Concertos, Charles-Auguste de Bériot’s three Duos concertants, op. 57, retain a certain familiarity among violinists, providing them, along with Spohr’s duos, repertoire highly idiomatic to the violins individually and yet weaving them into a richly symphonic texture. (I remember my excitement upon finding the music for these duos in my father’s closet.) Christine Sohn and John Marcus play these familiar (at least to violinists) duos with dashing forward momentum and all the polish required to make them sparkle as brightly as do the best moments in his concertos. They make the first movement of the G-Minor Duo sound commanding, yet they highlight the frequent staccato passages, and they’re meltingly heartfelt in the big cantabile second theme (such poignant moments abound in these works). The imposing thematic passages of the first movement of the E-Minor Duo sound as jaunty and as imposing, alternately, as the music seems to demand, and the duo seems as striking in the passages in the upper registers as in the full-throated ones on the G string. The finale sounds particularly thick texturally, an effect that Bériot seemed to achieve not only through active accompaniments but through double-stopping. Still, when he resorts, as he frequently does, to broad statements in octaves, the violinists create surprising fullness, never gaunt or skeletal. Sohn and Marcus take the Duo in D Major at a tempo that never dallies, yet allow the intriguing harmonies to play out in a way leisurely enough that they make their own gentler impact. At times, as in the finale of the last Duo, it seems as though the violinists might seek Maria Malibran’s voice more assiduously (it had been said that it spoke through Bériot’s violin after her death), but they bring the work to an effervescent conclusion…The Six duos caractéristiques, op. 113, haven’t achieved the same currency as have the earlier three, but they’re equally assured and equally inventive, with the interaction of the two violins, if anything, further refined and more ingeniously worked out, though the rules of engagement seem to be the very similar ones. The music passes through a leisurely Adagio, a strutting March, a bel canto Andante cantabile, a Fandango, a sultry Andantino, and a scintillating Tempo di bolero. The duo demonstrates as impressive a command of this more exotic stylistic pastiche as of Bériot’s more straightforward drawing-room manner in the Duos, op. 57.

Keith Anderson’s notes suggest that these duos tap as silvery a vein of virtuosity as do the concertos, and that may be true; but, in fact, both concertos and duos should be accessible to advanced intermediate students (being at least a cut below the 60 concert studies in difficulty), capable of imparting to them a feel for the elegant, melodious brilliance of which the violin’s capable when the composer knows how to extract it. Certainly Sohn and Marcus know how to do so, and while the program may hold most interest for violinists, both students and professionals, the music is entertaining and accessible enough for most tastes, even if it doesn’t make significantly more onerous demands on listeners than it does on players. The recorded sound, capturing the violinists far enough away for their sounds to merge pleasantly, offers a wide dynamic range, representing Bériot’s sensitive moments as faithfully as his stormier ones…deserves to be recommended.



Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International, August 2009

The Duos concertants may be familiar to violin students, who sometimes call upon them to hone their technique, but they, like the six Duos caractéristiques, are new to the world of recording. And this disc of premieres arrives not a moment too soon: together the music represents a major treat for lovers of the violin.

The Duos concertants, Op. 57, come in three sets which are each shaped much like a classical sonata: two quicker movements bracket a slower, more lyrical section. The third duo departs from the formula considerably, in that it is the only one of the three written in a major key, the finale is not a rondo and, more importantly, the opening section has the feel of a slow movement. The result is a bucolic, agreeable lyricism which makes the duo hard to forget. The first movement, in particular, is a stunner, as the first and then second violin take turns spinning a magical, seemingly endless tune over accompanying pizzicato.

The longest work on the programme is a set of Six duos caractéristiques based on themes from the ‘Ballet Espagnol’ by a Russian prince named Yusupov. Nikolay Yusupov evidently composed his own music for violin, including a concerto, and sponsored some of the elderly Bériot’s last concerts. We do not have the original ballet anymore, or the concerto, but these duos exude charm, warmth, and, occasionally, a touch of genuine Spanish flavour. The original work must have been quite a pleasure to Yusupov’s social circle, and this set of violin duos would have delighted the audiences of the salons with its alternating love serenades and mock-serious dances. There is an energetic march, a fandango and a bolero which makes a rousing conclusion to the set and to the album as a whole.

Generally in these works the first violin is the one tasked with the greatest technical challenges and rewarded with the best melodies and flashiest bits of show. Christine Sohn, who has served as guest leader or concertmaster of the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras, is simply extraordinary in the lead role, overcoming technical challenges with ease and letting each big melody sing. She has the poise and full, attractive sound of a master, and if John Marcus, who is quite literally ‘second fiddle’ here, does not quite live up to this high level, his role is such that he does not have to. Indeed, when Bériot gives him the chance, Marcus’s playing impresses too. The performers have the good taste not to pretend that this music is more than it is, instead perfectly evoking the intimacy and quiet charm of a romantic salon performance. The recorded sound is exemplary, with Sohn in the left channel and Marcus in the right, in sonics so clear that the performers might as well be in your room.

This disc is, in sum, a must-have for anyone in love with the sound of the violin. Bériot’s music is a consistent delight, a pleasure for the ears rather than an emotional workout; the third Duo, and parts of the Ballet Espagnol, are especially memorable. I will be turning to this album often when my ears clamour for the rich, aristocratic beauty of the violin unaccompanied by its string relatives. I imagine that many a listener with a love for this instrument will agree that this disc is a delight and a very welcome surprise.



Brian Reinhart
MusicWeb International, August 2009

The Duos concertants may be familiar to violin students, who sometimes call upon them to hone their technique, but they, like the six Duos caractéristiques, are new to the world of recording. And this disc of premieres arrives not a moment too soon: together the music represents a major treat for lovers of the violin.

The Duos concertants, Op. 57, come in three sets which are each shaped much like a classical sonata: two quicker movements bracket a slower, more lyrical section. The third duo departs from the formula considerably, in that it is the only one of the three written in a major key, the finale is not a rondo and, more importantly, the opening section has the feel of a slow movement. The result is a bucolic, agreeable lyricism which makes the duo hard to forget. The first movement, in particular, is a stunner, as the first and then second violin take turns spinning a magical, seemingly endless tune over accompanying pizzicato.

The longest work on the programme is a set of Six duos caractéristiques based on themes from the ‘Ballet Espagnol’ by a Russian prince named Yusupov. Nikolay Yusupov evidently composed his own music for violin, including a concerto, and sponsored some of the elderly Bériot’s last concerts. We do not have the original ballet anymore, or the concerto, but these duos exude charm, warmth, and, occasionally, a touch of genuine Spanish flavour. The original work must have been quite a pleasure to Yusupov’s social circle, and this set of violin duos would have delighted the audiences of the salons with its alternating love serenades and mock-serious dances. There is an energetic march, a fandango and a bolero which makes a rousing conclusion to the set and to the album as a whole.

Generally in these works the first violin is the one tasked with the greatest technical challenges and rewarded with the best melodies and flashiest bits of show. Christine Sohn, who has served as guest leader or concertmaster of the London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras, is simply extraordinary in the lead role, overcoming technical challenges with ease and letting each big melody sing. She has the poise and full, attractive sound of a master, and if John Marcus, who is quite literally ‘second fiddle’ here, does not quite live up to this high level, his role is such that he does not have to. Indeed, when Bériot gives him the chance, Marcus’s playing impresses too. The performers have the good taste not to pretend that this music is more than it is, instead perfectly evoking the intimacy and quiet charm of a romantic salon performance. The recorded sound is exemplary, with Sohn in the left channel and Marcus in the right, in sonics so clear that the performers might as well be in your room.

This disc is, in sum, a must-have for anyone in love with the sound of the violin. Bériot’s music is a consistent delight, a pleasure for the ears rather than an emotional workout; the third Duo, and parts of the Ballet Espagnol, are especially memorable. I will be turning to this album often when my ears clamour for the rich, aristocratic beauty of the violin unaccompanied by its string relatives. I imagine that many a listener with a love for this instrument will agree that this disc is a delight and a very welcome surprise.



Nick Barnard
MusicWeb International, July 2009

One of the many clever marketing strategies adopted by Naxos has been in the creation of many series [See Naxos Sets/Series page]. Whether it is British String Quartets or Martucci orchestral music, as a collector it is very hard to resist a completist’s compulsion to collect all the discs issued under that banner. This disc is a member of another Naxos series; namely “19th Century Violinist-Composer”. Perhaps the impact of this series is slightly diluted since the composers are of a period rather than a country and the music ranges from orchestral to instrumental to chamber.

Charles-Auguste de Bériot is not a name well-known to most music lovers. However, if you have gone through the conservatoire system as a violinist you will almost certainly have played at least one of his violin concertos. As well elaborated in Keith Anderson’s interesting and informative liner-notes he was a Belgian violinist from the early part of the 19th Century. He established a school of violin playing that led to many of the great French and Belgian players later that same century including Vieuxtemps, Ernst and Ysaÿe. No surprise then that the works featured on this CD belong to the great tradition of violinistic fireworks. Perhaps more interesting is the lyrical element in his music. Given that he was married to the opera singer Maria Malibran I don’t think it is too fanciful to hear an almost Rossini-esque quality to much of his melodic writing. The Encyclopedia Britannica encapsulates the style perfectly—“a particular performance style (the Franco-Belgian school) that combined classical elegance with technical virtuosity”.

So, it is with that style in mind that I approached this disc. It should be said from the outset that both players have techniques comfortably able to deal with anything thrown at them by de Bériot. Throughout, there is a clearly hierarchical approach to the compositions; Violin 1 leads and Violin 2 accompanies. This is not intellectually demanding music to listen to. To be honest the predictability of much of the music and that lack of true interplay between parts does not make for the most compelling of listening experiences. I imagine that the Trois Duos Concertants Op.57 in particular were written with a pedagogical function in mind. Each is in a standard fast-slow-fast three movement format. Crudely put, the first movements are the most seriously argued musically; the second movements are song-like and lyrical although de Bériot ornaments and elaborates the material as the movements progress and the Rondo-Finales are lighter in feel and fleet in style. The well-filled disc is completed by a twenty minute linked series of Six Duos caractéristiques Op.113 which are more equally and overtly virtuosic. They point the way perhaps towards the Sarasate Spanish Dances. This is one of the earliest pieces to demonstrate the Franco/Belgian feel for things Spanish with movements marked tempo di Fandango and tempo di Bolero.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

Charles-Auguste de Bériot was arguably the finest violinist in the early 19th century, this disc of violin duos intended to display virtuosity in a most entertaining way. They should carry the safety warning, ‘these tricks should not be attempted in your own home’, for it is music that demands virtuoso violinists with spotlessly clean intonation or it would sound absolutely ghastly. Double-stopping and chords are liberally applied to create a warm and weighty texture, and when you add them together you have the illusion of six note chords. The Duos Concertantes contains three works each of three movements and are full of easily listenable melodies, many that could have come straight from the operatic stage. They are accompanied in many guises—delicate guitar-like pizzicato at one moment, double-stopping at the next—all intended to fool the ear into thinking you are listening to more than two musicians. The second work, from around 1859, is based on themes by Prince Nikolay Borisovich Yusupov, a Russian aristocrat who was a gifted violinist, composer and patron, and he was to engage Bériot as music director of his private orchestra. The performances by Christine Sohn and John Marcus are fabulous. Both pupils of the famous violin pedagog, Dorothy DeLay, at the Juilliard School of Music, Marcus, a native New Yorker, won the school’s violin competition at the age of fifteen. Sohn, a Korean-American, spent some years in the UK working as guest leader of almost all of its major orchestras. Just try track 9, the final movement of the third of the Duos concertants, and you will want the disc. Lovely sound from Naxos’s celebrated Canadian recording team.






Famous Composers Quick Link:
Bach | Beethoven | Chopin | Dowland | Handel | Haydn | Mozart | Glazunov | Schumann | R Strauss | Vivaldi
1:43:04 AM, 28 August 2014
All Naxos Historical, Naxos Classical Archives, Naxos Jazz, Folk and Rock Legends and Naxos Nostalgia titles are not available in the United States and some titles may not be available in Australia and Singapore because these countries have copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.
Copyright © 2014 Naxos Digital Services Ltd. All rights reserved.     Terms of Use     Privacy Policy
-208-
Classical Music Home
NOTICE: This site was unavailable for several hours on Saturday, June 25th 2011 due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work. We apologize for any inconvenience.