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ClassicsOnline Home » PRIMROSE: Viola Transcriptions
By Patricia Pollet
The great 20th-century violist William Primrose made many transcriptions thoughout his career to enliven his programs and compete with repertoire of the more traditional virtuoso instruments. From Naxos comes a collection of these transcriptions played by Roberto Diaz on Primrose’s own early Amati instrument.
Chilean-American Diaz, principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra and recently appointed director of the Curtis Institute of Music, gives a personal account of these works.
The CD cannot help but summon comparison with Primrose himself, who left a substantial recorded legacy of much of this repertoire. Diaz falls somewhat short of the great master. His technique is impressive however, marrying a beautifully rich, even tone with spot-on intonation. But it is his lack of musical invention and character that lets the disc down. Diaz excels in the slow, melancholy pieces, where he takes a rather noble approach, with respectful sensitivity. His sound, with the dark Amati in tow, is wonderfully etched with a vocal quality perfectly befitting the songs of Wagner and Schubert. It’s in the pithy, faster numbers that spirit and energy are wanting. Tempi are quite lethargic, crying out for greater spontaneity and fantasy. Primrose managed to find amazing variety and humour in these little vignettes. Although one couldn’t help marvel at his prowess, the use of extraordinary technique elevated the music to a level greater than it may have deserved.
It’s a useful collection nonetheless and one that hopefully may encourage players to take up these pieces. Not all are of the Paganini La Camanella difficulty. Popular melodies such as the Borodin Nocturne and Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras should be attractive enticements for younger players to enjoy. The pianist Robert Koenig accompanies admirably.
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PRIMROSE: Viola Transcriptions