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Mark Swed
Los Angeles Times, September 2010

Léon de Saint-Lubin was the son of a French officer who moved to Turin after the revolution. Violinist Anastasia Khitruk...presents him as an outright Paganini competitor, and a master of the salon. His Fantasy on a Theme from Lucia di Lammermoor for solo violin is a knockout.

Laurie Niles, December 2009

Violinist Anastasia Khitruk did some digging, and she found inspiration in the forgotten works of the Italian composer and violinist Léon de Saint-Lubin. Sometimes forgotten works should stay forgotten, but not these. Take out your fiddle and try this one, and see if you’d like to hear more.

Joseph Magil
American Record Guide, November 2009

Anastasia Khritruk and Elizaveta Kopelman deserve credit for resurrecting some of the compositions of the forgotten violin virtuoso Leon de Saint-Lubin (1805–50)…The longest piece, the Grand Duo Concertant, could just as well have been titled Violin Sonata. It is a sonata in four movements…consistently engaging. Saint-Lubin is a very competent composer, and his music is never insipid or clumsy, but the most interesting music here is the works based on music by others. The Fantasy on a Theme from Lucia di Lammermoor has Donizetti’s famous tune from the sextet. The Original Theme and Study by Sigismund Thalberg, the great piano virtuoso, is quite different in character, lacking operatic melody. What both have in common is that they are for unaccompanied violin, and in both Saint-Lubin emulates Paganini by including all sorts of technical wizardry. The interesting thing about the Thalberg-based work is how it translates piano virtuosity into violin virtuosity. The other operatic adaptation, the Potpourri on Themes from Auber’s Fiancee, succeeds because of the inherent drama in the music, even though Auber’s themes are often silly. The Adagio Religioso and the Two Salon Pieces are conventional salon music.

Khitruk and Kopelman are very fine musicians and stylish interpreters.

Robert Maxham
Fanfare, September 2009

Anastasia Khitruk and Elizaveta Kopelman both play this work with great authority and with technical and tonal command. © 2009 Fanfare Read complete review

Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb International, August 2009

The major work in this first volume is the Grand Duo Concertant, published in 1847. It’s a curious hybrid, with the piano writing often sounding decidedly Beethovenian whilst the violin spins a lyric line that sounds part derived from Schubert. It’s very well written for both instruments and extremely well paced. There’s grace and also a touch of drollery, maybe even frivolity in the opening movement, whilst the second has a strong Beethovenian cast to it, and is full of verve. There’s a warm slow movement, nothing too fulsome to over balance the schema, which sports a perky and extrovert B section. A bright, keen Allegretto finishes the work in style.

The other works fall into well established genres of writing—the operatic variations, the salon charmers, and the mildly lachrymose sweetmeat. The Fantaisie sur un thème de Lucia di Lammermoor obviously falls into the first category, a display piece of considerable virtuosity, calling for a battery of resources and majoring on left hand pizzicato and tremolandi to fan the flames; clearly a post-Paganinian confection, which Anastasia Khitruk digs into with chewy vibrato and great panache. The Potpourri on themes from Auber’s La Fiancée is another paraphrase, just as demanding, but also exuding veritable whiffs of stage paint. The Thème Original et Etude de S. Thalberg, Op. 45a is cleverly wrought—an arrangement for violin of a piano etude it transfers to the new medium extremely convincingly, even exuding as it does considerable bowing difficulties. It was dedicated jointly to Bazzini and Sivori so Saint-Lubin was reaching out to the best. As one would expect the Adagio Religioso is warmly textured but fortunately not too religiose. And the salon morceaux that end the disc are full of lightweight charm and rather generic dance patterns.

With fine recorded sound and notes this first volume gets off to a cracking start. Khitruk and Elizaveta Kopelman are first class ambassadors for this kind of music and marry virtuosity with elegance throughout.

Duncan Druce
Gramophone, August 2009

Graceful and vivacious performances throw light on a forgotten composer

Who was Léon de Saint-Lubin (1805–50)? His Lucia fantasy was recorded by Jan Kubelík in 1902, but since then he seems to have been almost totally forgotten. Born in Turin, his family moved later on to Germany, where he became a pupil of Spohr. The 1820s saw him in Vienna, where he had contact with Beethoven and established a reputation as an orchestral leader and solo violinist. The latter part of his life was spent in BERLIN. Schumann wrote scornfully about this music: “When he reveals his own inner life, things look sadly dull.”

Listeners will judge for themselves, but to me Schumann’s verdict seems harsh. Saint-Lubin’s easy, fluent style admits no profundity but his music has considerable charm and some original ideas. He shows resource and imagination not only in writing for the violin (the two unaccompanied pieces are both extremely effective) but also for piano. Even where the piano has the role of accompanist, as in the Salonstücke, its part is full of interest, emerging, in the Grand duo and the Auber Potpourri, as equal partner with the violin, the dialogue between the two most expertly managed.

Anastasia Khitruk and Elizaveta Kopelman are ideal advocates for Saint-Lubin, a well matched duo who clearly enjoy and make the most of the virtuosity, and bring the more expressive passages to life in a graceful, vivacious way. I’d love to hear them in more substantial repertoire from this period—the Mendelssohn F major Sonata or the Schubert Fantasie, perhaps.

James Manheim, July 2009

Although he knew Beethoven and Schubert, and was directly inspired by Paganini, Léon de Saint-Lubin has almost been entirely forgotten. He was championed 100 years ago by Hungarian violinist Jenö Hubay, who has come back into vogue himself, and now he himself is the subject of a revival attempt by Russian-American violinist Anastasia Khitruk. She has the technical equipment to deal with the thornier passages of the Theme originale et Etude de S. Thalberg, Op. 45a (track 6), but for the most part Saint-Lubin wasn’t a virtuoso in the Paganini mold. Despite his French name, he was born in Italy and spent most of his career in Vienna and Berlin. His music is notable for its stylistic range rather than for any exhaustive exploration of a particular idiom. Khitruk’s program is well organized in this regard. It begins with the Grand Duo Concertant, Op. 49, published in 1847 after Schubert’s music was beginning to become famous. Lyrical but formally clear, it is a sonata in all but name. Khitruk includes a pair of pieces based on operatic themes, by Donizetti and Auber; balances the Thalberg study with a sober if not terribly spiritual Adagio religioso, Op. 44; and rounds things off with four short pieces of the kind that would have been the stock-in-trade of any violinist plying mercantile and noble audiences during the first half of the nineteenth century. With the possible exception of the Grand Duo Concertant, it doesn’t stick with you for long after hearing it, but the album as a whole fills in a useful swath of background and does it in an attractive way.

David Milsom
The Strad, July 2009

That the life and work of Léon de Saint-Lubin (1805–50) are not better known is proof that the verdict of history is not always a fair one: the music on this disc is colourful and far from insubstantial. Saint-Lubin’s debt to Paganini is evidenced in the technical feats necessary in this material, especially in the Fantaisie sur un thème de ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ and Thème original et Étude de S. Thalberg. While the Op. 47 pieces are a little inconsequential, the muscular and confident writing of the Grand duo concertant is evidence of an inventive musical mind. This is material that deserves to be better known, and in many respects this excellent disc should do much to boost Saint-Lubin’s present-day reputation.

Notwithstanding a personal preference for the 19th-century music played in our best understanding of a 19th-century way, these are excellent performances. The tone is set in the opening movement of the Grand duo, which is lively and exciting, but also wonderfully rich in colours and subtleties, especially on the G string. Anastasia Khitruk’s playing is of the very highest order, and Elizaveta Kopelman’s pianism is equally exact and charismatic. Khitruk, trained at the Mannes and Julliard schools, is unquestionably a talent of the first rank and Kopelman, a fellow ex-Muscovite, proves a worthy and entirely equal duo partner.

Once again, Naxos demonstrates its credentials as an enterprising label, and the recording quality is magnificent, with an excellent balance of clarity and depth to the sound. Highly recommended.

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, June 2009

Although born in Italy, the now-forgotten 19th century violin virtuoso and composer Leon de Saint-Lubin spent virtually all of his life in Austria and Germany, enjoying a highly successful career in Vienna and in Berlin, where he died at the age of 44 in 1850. His works mirror a period when German music was developing from the Classical to the Romantic style: there are echoes of Beethoven here, along with touches of Schubert, Mendelssohn and Spohr, and even hints of early Brahms.

It’s difficult to make a definitive judgement from a few selected works—he also left unpublished operas, symphonies and concertos—but clearly Saint-Lubin was not only an outstanding violinist but also a more than competent composer, highly-regarded in his time and obviously capable of some excellent piano writing.

Khitruk is brilliant throughout this stunning CD, particularly in the unaccompanied Lucia di Lammermoor Fantaisie Op.46 and the Thalberg Theme and Etude transcription, and has a sympathetic partner in Kopelman in the duo selections.

A very few Saint-Lubin pieces have been recorded before, with mixed opinions regarding their merit, but nothing on this scale; I found it an absolute revelation.

The CD cover implies that this is only Volume 1, suggesting more to come; there are, apparently, five unpublished Saint-Lubin violin concertos—now there’s a project!

Recorded in Newmarket and the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio by the usual Kraft & Silver team, the sound quality is exemplary.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2009

On his death in 1850 Leon de Saint-Lubin left behind a wide variety of works, all of which have long since disappeared from the concert platform. He was born in Italy of French parents, and enjoyed a colourful career as a leading touring virtuoso violinist, spending much of his life in Vienna where his circle of musicians included Beethoven and Schubert. Hearing Paganini was the stimulus for him to withdrew from the concert platform to restudy the instrument, eventually resurfacing in Berlin with the appointment as concertmaster of the Royal Municipal Theatre. Now among his company were Liszt, Mendelssohn and his former mentor, Louis Spohr, to add their influences. It was not many years later that he became ill, and though he survived a few more years, he died at the early age of 44. All five works on this disc were published, but the bulk of his output only survived in manuscript. As was fashionable at the time, much of his music was showy—the serious Grand Duo Concertante, in the style of Beethoven, being the exception. The Fantaisie sur un theme de Lucia di Lammermoor is ridiculously difficult, left hand pizzicati while it is high on the fingerboard in arco passages, just one of its many tests, the Thème original et Etude de S. Thalberg and the Potpourri on themes from Auber’s La Fiancée, continuing in the same high technical dependency. The pseudo-sacred Adagio religioso, and four pretty Salonstücke complete the disc. The Russian-American violinist, Anastasia Khitruk, has all the expertise required, and even sounds more happy when faced with challenges than in the lyrical Salonstücke. She is accompanied by another Russian, Elizaveta Kopelman, who is now making a career in the UK, her rôle often no more than a functional backdrop.

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