ClassicsOnline Home » OPERA FANTASIES FOR VIOLIN > Review List


Period(s) 20th CenturyContemporaryRomantic
Genre Classical Music
Category Chamber Music
Catalogue 8.570202
Label Naxos
Quality   320kbps
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The operatic fantasy, as a vehicle for the display of virtuosity, came into its own in the 19th century, notably with the ‘demon violinist’ Paganini, whose variations on Rossini’s I Palpiti are included here. Later and contemporary composers and musicians have continued the practice of taking themes from operas and presenting them in ever more virtuosic guise. They include Stefan Frenkel whose technically very demanding arrangements of songs from Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera provide a dazzling showpiece in the nineteenth-century virtuoso tradition of Paganini and Liszt. The haunting Desde mi ventana (From my window) from Osvaldo Golijov’s fusion opera Aimnadamar (Fountain of Tears) is heard in an


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Review By David Denton,Naxos,October 2007

The second-half of the 19th century witnessed a new breed of touring virtuoso whose main aim was to titillate audiences with a show of incredible dexterity, and often involving new ‘tricks’ in playing their instruments. It was tempting for many to became composers in order to write works of such difficulty that others would be unable to place them in their programmes. One such virtuoso was the Hungarian, Jeno Hubay, who became better known as the teacher of the next generation of great violinists. He used, as with many others of that time, the fact that opera had become so popular errand-boys would go round the streets whistling the tunes. That allowed them embellished arias with flights of pure fantasy to amuse their audiences. Hubay’s Carmen Fantasy together with Paganini’s death defying Introduction and Variations are the best-known works on the disc, though Stephen Prutsman shows in his highlights from Der Rosenkavalier that today the art is far from extinct. The remaining tracks are opera transcriptions of rather varying interest. All this is food and drink to Livia Sohn who shot to prominence when taking first prize in the Yehudi Menhuin International Violin Competition at the age of 12. That was 18 years ago and there followed periods working with Dorothy DeLay and Felix Galamir as her mentors. Sohn is the antithesis of violinists who throw caution to the wind, the technical fireworks integrated into her performances with spotlessly clean intonation, the end result being music rather than showmanship. When the composers permit, Sohn has her Guadagnini violin singing with a gorgeous tonal quality, her bowing technique producing long seamless phrases. In Benjamin Loeb she has a partner who knows exactly how to form that flexible backdrop that Sohn needs to negotiate technical pitfalls. Geoff Nuttall makes brief appearances as the third player in the Golijov and Bizet. Naxos’s impeccable Canadian recording team has not quite captured an ideal piano tone, but otherwise it is a well balanced and highly desirable recording.



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