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Scene Magazine, March 2012

Rarely does the violin sound as sweet as it does in the music of Emile Sauret. The compositions of the child prodigy and instrumental virtuoso are the subject of this recent Naxos recording, which features pieces written for violin and piano. First-hand accounts of Sauret’s concerts reveal he was a remarkable performer…Sauret’s instrumentals also suggest an undeniable facility for expressing profound pathos, and an ear for exquisite melody. From the delicate paean of Scenes villageoises’ second movement to Souvenirs d’Orient’s jovial effervescence and elegance, the composer’s writing traverses a wide variety of moods and emotional hues. The fanciful Farfalla…emulates the winged insect’s erratic flight patterns with violin trills, eventually transitioning through a breezy coda and resolving in an inspired instrumental blend…Scherzo fantastique…is a showcase for an incendiary display of virtuosity, which is a fitting tribute to an artist whose genius was in his hands, as well as his heart. Recommended. © 2012 Scene Magazine Read complete review

Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, December 2011

The music is powerfully recorded with a big upfront sound. Both musicians are admirable and indeed impressive interpreters. © 2011 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Terry Robbins
The WholeNote, November 2011

Naxos has issued a charming CD of [Émile Sauret’s] Music for Violin and Piano (8.572366) played by the American violinist Michi Wiancko and the Russian pianist Dina Vainshtein. Their playing of these attractive, well-crafted pieces, that are closer to Sarasate in style than to Paganini, is an absolute delight. Recorded at the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio by the always-reliable Norbert Kraft and Bonnie Silver, the sound quality displays perfect balance and a spacious ambience.

Elaine Fine
American Record Guide, November 2011

Wiancko and Vainshtein do a wonderful job at playing this music exactly as it should be played: joyfully, lyrically, and brilliantly. I particularly like the Souvenir de Los Angeles, a piece that Sauret may have written for his 1875 concert series he gave in Los Angeles. I imagine it has a special place in Michi Wiancko’s heart, since she comes from Southern California.

To read the complete review, please visit American Record Guide online.

WETA, September 2011

Naxos’ latest release in the “19th Century Violinist Composer” series features music by Emile Sauret, a French-born composer and violin virtuoso whose works on this release fit into the category of salon music that was popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Two suites, Village Scenes and Souvenirs of the Orient, give us 10 short character pieces.  They’re joined by a butterfly (“Farfalla”) and a scherzo.  There’s also a selection that was probably written for Sauret’s concert series in California, “Souvenir of Los Angeles.”

David Hurwitz, September 2011

Émile Sauret (1857–1920) was one of the last major exponents of the 19th-century Franco/Belgian school. His music is very charming, full of delightful melodies, and of course is beautifully written for the violin. He toured he U.S. several times in the 1870s (hence the charming Souvenir de Los Angeles included here), and was married for a few years to Venezuelan pianist Teresa Carreño—but then, so was everyone (she famously reproached one of her later husbands with the line, “Your children and my children are fighting again with our children!”). This collection also includes the Scènes villageoises, the exotic Souvenirs d’Orient, a buoyant Farfalla, and the pretty substantial Scherzo fantastique. Michi Wiancko plays all of these pieces with the right, light touch, a winsome tone, and good taste. Dina Vainshtein accompanies with discreet enthusiasm. Turn your home into a Paris salon and give this release a shot. Recommended.

Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, August 2011

While these selections for violin and piano are far from profound, it would be a great mistake to simply dismiss them as superficial salon music! Beautifully structured and with great melodic appeal, they’d melt the heart of the most captious critic.

The four movements making up his Scènes villageoises (Village Scenes, 1895) would have made ideal encore pieces, and may well have served as such by Sauret. They include a gorgeous morning reverie (“Le matin”) complete with avian twitters, rustic rhapsody (“Pastorale”), Saturnian song (“Vielle chanson”), and an infectious village dance (“Danse”) with hints of church bells as well as a hurdy-gurdy. This is effervescent music that’s bound to please!

Souvenir de Los Angeles (Souvenir of Los Angeles) was possibly written for a series of concerts Sauret gave there in 1875. It’s a Paganiniesque concertino lasting about eight minutes loaded with enough double-stopping to challenge an octopus. After a brief doleful introduction, it turns into a bravura showpiece that undoubtedly allowed the composer to wow audiences with his prodigious technique. Yet despite all its virtuosic superficiality there’s an underlying melodic integrity that makes it much more than a note-strewn bauble.

A set of six more souvenirs follows, but this time from the East, which the composer undoubtedly visited on his many worldwide concert tours. Souvenirs d’Orient (Souvenirs of the Orient, no date given) begins with a colorfully developed impression of Constantinople, followed by three fetching dances notable for their catchy tunes and rhythMs The collection concludes with a gentle barcarole (“Gondoleira”), succeeded by a capricious en-pointe-like number (“A Péra”) possibly inspired by something the composer experienced at the Pera Palace Hotel in Istanbul.

Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908) immortalized the bumblebee in his opera The Tale of the Tsar Sultan (1900), and Sauret does the same for the butterfy in Farfalla (no date given). Its moth-and-flame-fluttering outer sections have a lightness of touch comparable to the last movement of Paganini’s La Campanella Violin Concerto (No. 2, 1826). They surround a soaring inner episode, making this flight of fancy one of the most charming violin showpieces to come out of the romantic era.

The concert concludes with the highly dramatic Scherzo fantastique (Fantastic Scherzo, c. 1880). This is a rather demonic sounding eleven-minute koncertstück, lying somewhere between Tartini’s (1692–1770) Devil’s Trill Violin Sonata (Op. 1, No. 4, 1734) and the suite-trio Stravinsky (1882–1971) extracted from his L’histoire du soldat (1919). It ends this treasurable Sauret sampling on an intriguing infernal note.

The names of violinist Michi Wiancko and pianist Dina Vainshtein may not be household words at this early stage in their careers, but if this disc is any indication they may soon be! Written by one of the greatest violinists who ever lived, these works represent a real challenge, which Ms Wiancko meets head on! She delivers silver-toned, technically flawless performances of these selections that capture all their charm without allowing them to degenerate into mundane palm court fare.

She couldn’t have a better partner than Ms Vainshtein, who plays the perfect supporting role in these fiddle-dominated pieces. More specifically, she exercises a perfect balancing act between artistic reserve during bravura violin passages as opposed to compelling dramatic assertiveness when the piano is spotlighted.

Made in the CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada, the recordings are excellent, projecting a comfortably proportioned soundstage in a lively acoustic ideally suited to these violin zingers. The string tone is bright but musical, and the piano well-rounded with what may be some occasional action noise. Those wanting a good duo demonstration disc need look no further!

Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, August 2011

I love how Naxos makes it its mission to put out forgotten old music like these chamber gems by virtuoso violinist Emile Sauret (1852–1920). This is music of lavish loveliness. …light, soulful and entrancing…

Blair Sanderson, August 2011

Once a celebrated virtuoso and composer, but now mostly remembered by devotees of late Romantic violin music, Émile Sauret left a small but attractive body of works for violin and piano, some of which are lovingly presented on this 2011 Naxos release. Performed by violinist Michi Wiancko and pianist Dina Vainshtein, the pieces are picturesque sketches and character pieces that are a mixture of sentimental melodies with flashy techniques, and their gentleness and piquante charm mark them as parlor pieces of the fin de siècle. Sauret was a world-renowned violinist, and his popularity was widespread at the turn of the 20th century, so it’s easy to imagine how such crowd-pleasing pieces as the Scènes villageoises or the Souvenirs d’Orient would be frequently heard in concert. But fans of brilliant violin writing should be most excited about Farfalla and the Scherzo fantastique, two showstoppers that Wiancko and Vainshtein serve up with extra bravado. …the music is always effervescent and lively, so listeners seeking light diversions with glittery reminiscences of the belle époque will find what they need here.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, August 2011

The opening track I remember playing as a young boy, but who the composer was I had not the slightest idea. Such has been the fate of Emile Sauret. Having been born in France, he came onto the international scene in the second half of the 19th century when Europe was overflowing with incredibly brilliant pianists and violinists. About his younger years information is sketchy, though he was certainly playing as a professional soloist before his teenage years, and later studied with de Beriot and Vieuxtemps. As a touring virtuoso he appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, and in his later years—he died in 1920 at the age of 68—he spent much time teaching in Berlin, Chicago and London. As a performer we find contemporary reports talking of him as a rival to Paganini, though as a composer he seems to have worked largely in the field of salon music. There are two extended works on the present disc—the Scenes villageoises and Souvenirs d’Orient created from a series of relatively short musical pictures. The one I recall, Le matin, is typical of the gentle and lyric quality of the whole disc—no drama, no angst, just attractive and pleasing sounds. There are three tracks, Souvenir de Los Angeles, Farfalla and the Scherzo fantastique that he would have used as recital showpieces to demonstrate the violinist’s tricks of the trade. Today’s young generation play such challenges with ease, the American-born violinist, Michi Wiancko, as adept with left-hand pizzicati as with the unfailing accuracy of her intonation in passages of double-stopping. The piano part is mostly in a supporting role, the Russian-born, Dina Vainshtein, a most responsive and well balanced collaborator. Recorded in Toronto’s Glenn Gould Studio with its ‘different’ piano quality.

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