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See latest reviews of other albums..., April 2012

SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Piano Music, Vol. 2 (Tianwa Yang, Hadulla) 8.570192
SARASATE, P. de: Violin and Piano Music, Vol. 3 (Tianwa Yang, Hadulla) 8.570893

the two newest Sarasate violin-and-piano recordings by Tianwa Yang and Markus Hadulla do repay a series of repeated listenings. For one thing, the technical demands of the music make it fascinating to hear Yang, again and again, overcome the barriers that Sarasate set for himself; for another, the piano parts here, especially the introductions, are more substantive than in similar compositions by many 19th-century virtuosi, and Hadulla handles them very well indeed. Furthermore, Sarasate was an accomplished melodist, making both his original works and the ones he based on the creations of other composers pleasantly enjoyable to hear…Nearly all of Volume 2 of this Naxos series consists of opera paraphrases and opera-tunes sequences; Caprice sur “Mireille” de Gounod from Volume 3 is a work of the same type. These pieces range from out-and-out pastiches such as Homenaje a Rossini and Fantaisie de concert sur “La forza del destino” (the latter being Sarasate’s Op. 1) to lovely bel canto works such as Gavota de Mignon and elegant and technically impressive creations such as Fantaisie de concert sur “Martha.” The non-operatic pieces on both CDs are uniformly well-constructed and require considerable technical proficiency, but many are musically inconsequential. Among the exceptions are Mélodie roumaine, based on tunes from Transylvania; Boléro, a wistful and delicate version of the dance; Fantaisie-Caprice, which requires some extraordinarily difficult bowing; and Les Adieux, a tender and wistful work rather than a bright display piece. © 2012 Read complete review

Strings Magazine, July 2009

“Sing! Sing!” What music student and orchestra player has not been exhorted to emulate the human voice, that most natural, spontaneously expressive instrument, by teachers and conductors? Since musicians are expert poachers of the vocal literature, appropriating its gems through transcriptions and arrangements, opera became a favorite hunting ground for 19th-century composer/virtuosos. Based on famous arias, their opera fantasies showcased their creative imagination and instrumental brilliance. Its best-known practitioners were Liszt and Sarasate; the latter’s “Carmen Fantasy,” a staple of the violin repertoire, has inspired many imitations. For her program of “Concert Fantasies,” the young Chinese violinist Tianwa Yang has wisely avoided the most familiar examples. Her most famous sources are the two arias from Flotow’s Martha, the Gavotte from Thomas’ Mignon, and some Rossini excerpts. The fantasy on Verdi’s La forza del destino does not include any recognizable melody from the opera. The fantasies are all similarly structured: after an overture-like piano introduction, the violin states the theme, launches into variations that become progressively more inventive, elaborate, and brilliant, and end with a stretto/coda of hair-raising speed and virtuosity. Substantial piano solos provide variety, drama, and resting places for the violinist.

Yang has already demonstrated not only stunning, effortless virtuosity, but an uncanny affinity for Spanish music in a recording of Sarasate’s Spanish Dances (Naxos 8.557767). Here, her ability to capture the bel canto style—its meltingly beautiful sound, vocal fireworks, rhythmic flexibility, graciousness, and charm—is equally astonishing. Her double-stops are impeccably in tune, her runs glitter, her tone caresses the ear, and her expressiveness touches the heart without becoming sentimental or corny.

The piano parts of these fantasies also demand extraordinary technical and musical skills: the introductions and interludes imitate a whole orchestra, and the accompanying passages require utmost discretion and accommodation. Meeting these challenges masterfully, Markus Hadulla treats his soloist like a prima donna.

Robert Maxham
Fanfare, November 2008

Yang may be the player of the future, with almost overheated readings of Sarasate filtered through the new Asian sensibility… © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Robert Maxham
Fanfare, May 2008

…Tianwa Yang, a Chinese prodigy who recorded Paganini’s caprices at the age of 13, proves to be a prepossessing champion of Sarasate’s less familiar works. She makes bold gestures that, though they may not be entirely in keeping with the image of Sarasate as the dapper dandy, still irresistibly sweep the listener along (as Sarasate’s own recordings do, more than a century after he made them). The recorded sound, so faithful and lively that a listener might be fooled into looking around the room for the violin and piano, works hand-in-glove with the performers’ bold approach.

Yang’s readings, replete with shrewd rhetoric—sharp contrasts and brilliant timing, as well as scintillating virtuosity—bring a few surprises: first of all, how stunningly Yang and Hadulla play these pieces—not just technically but dramatically as well; and second, how stunning the pieces themselves sound when she plays them: as though we’ve been missing some important music for a good many years. © 2008 Fanfare Read complete review

Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, April 2008

This is the second volume of Sarasate pieces that Tianwa Yang and Markus Hadulla have recorded for Naxos (Nov/Dec 2006), and it includes operatic fantasies that I never new existed, beginning with a fantasy on a theme from Flotow's Martha that includes variations on Sir John Stevenson's melody for 'The last Rose of Summer'. The Rossini homage is filled with themes that have slipped out of immediate recognition from Otello and Moise, but the piece ends with a rousing chorus of the very familiar 'Largo al Factotum' from the Barber of Seville. Everything here is a special and highly virtuosic treat, especially the violinist.

Carl Flesch decribed Pablo de Sarasate's music like a fresh, rosy-cheeked peasant girl. Well, here she is. She is 20 now, and demonstrated that she was an accomplished virtuoso at 14 by recording all the Paganini caprices (they can all be seen and heard on YouTube). She plays more like a refined ballet dancer than a peasant girl, but there is a clarity and purity to her playing that gives the impression that she has never had a care or worry in the world: it is beautiful and effortless, while still emotionally uplifting and musically interesting. There is a kind of natural order to her playing as well as a natural intelligence. Listening to her play has a kind of cleansing effect on my mind; it makes the world seem dazzlingly beautiful, yet, at the same time at peace and in balance.

I suppose Yang's playing can only be described as perfect, and "perfect" is a word I normally hate to use, because I normally think of perfection to be a myth. George Bernard Shaw, it has been said, advised the young Jascha Heifetz that his perfection might cause the gods to seek retribution, and that he should intentionally play one single bad note daily to protect himself. Maybe Yang should be prudent and do the same.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, November 2007

This form of music was popular around the mid- to late-19th century, long before radio and records. The twenty-year-old Tianwa Yang is a phenomenally gifted violinist, who takes to this (and, one would suspect to any genre of) music like a fish to water. She plays with a bold assurance and hair-raising, sparkling technique. A real tour de force!

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2007

It might seem perverse in reviewing a disc of violin showpieces to open with some words on the young German pianist, Markus Hadulla, an accompanist of rare distinction that can add something very special to a soloist. Studying in Paris and New York he was invited by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to join his lieder class in Berlin. He is such an attentive and intuitive partner who moves so unobtrusively with tempo inflections of the soloist, yet when given the opportunity, as in the Homenaje a Rossini he easily slips into the major part with playing that really sparkles. As with the Liszt disc reviewed above, these showpieces were intended for the Spanish-born virtuoso, Pablo Sarasate, to excite his audience with a show of outgoing pyrotechnics in his concert appearances through the second-half of the 19th century. But unlike Liszt, Sarasate was first and foremost a performer with only a modest talent as a composer, though when he could borrow good thematic material he produced highly enjoyable scores. Born in Beijing in 1987, Tianwa Yang has toured around the world since she was twelve, and here displays a formidable technical expertise. If I point to some moments where notes are not centered and spicatto passages that are not quite even, I doubt that you could find many violinists with such crystalline left hand pizzicatos. Always trying to hide the technical demands so as to produce works of value, Yang even manages to make something worthwhile of the La forza del destino fantasy, a score with infinitely more notes than inspiration. The recording is very good and it would have been interesting to know the name of the violin that sings so beautifully and effortlessly for her.

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