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Venegrov is thought by many to be the finest violinist of his generation.
on 1 August 2014
Because I live in Perth, West Australia, one of the most isolated cities in the World, I had not heard of Maxim Vengerov, the violinist. I wondered who he was after I came across this box set. So I read some of the Amazon reviews. He was called a master; that looked promising. Another wrote, that he was the best violinist in the world today. I really was impressed. Then, a reviewer was disappointed. Appearently his latest CD was not as good as his last. In fact, he tore a strip off this violinist. Not so good. Yet another stated, that he was given a few bad reviews because he dares to experiment and plays the concerto in a different manner. He is a risk taker, not like those violinists who do not dare to tread a new path. Well, if a violinist can create such passion, then he must have something.(READ MY CD REVIEWS BELOW) This new box set has had no reviews in two months. Generally, I like to review these type of sets or bluray's, because they turn out being a cut above the average and they are a challenge to get readers interested in them.
Who is Vengerov? Firstly, I will start by saying that after listening to all these CDs, that he has a superb technique. With a highly individualistic and large sound, which he can reduce to almost a whisper, pulsating with sheer emotion, at times almost heartbreakingly so. Secondly, to understand the man we require some history. For without understanding the past, how can we come to terms with the present.
In 1868 Leopold Auer took over from Wieniawski as professor of violin at the St Petersburg Conservatory, and established a prestigious violin school there whose influence spread to the West from the turn of the 20th century onwards. Fleeing the Russian Revolution of 1917, Auer and his most talented pupils travelled to the USA, where the names Efrem Zimbalist, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein became part of the history of the modern violin. The Moscow violin school took on the Auer tradition and nurtured such talents as David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan, who made their names in the West after the second World War.(See collectors edition- Strings-Bluray, Ideale audience). Vengerov belongs to that illustrious line of violinists.
Born in 1974 he began violin lessons when he was five years old, which is natural as he comes from a family of musicians. He spent three years at the famous Moscow violin school, returning to his Siberian home town and began studies with the leading teacher of the new Siberian Violin school, Zakhar Bron, who had studied with Igor Oistrakh. After 20 years of touring, he had a break in 2008, teaching and conducting. The DVD in this set, "Living the Dream" gives you some idea what he got up to, and we see him playing on stage. He is funny, emotional and seems a decent bloke. In this CD set he uses a number of Stradvari violins. (J.M Molkhou, booklet 2014).
The Box is made of reasonably tough cardboard, where the lid opens sideways. Coloured black with lettering in yellow and white. The back has the brief outline of what is in the box. The CD sleeves are the original's, on the back which is yellow, is the CD number, the composers, pieces of music to be played, track numbers. Orchestra, conductor, or pianist The CD's are easy to get out of the Sleeves. The CDs are black, with the composer, pieces of music to be played, CD number, pianist or conductor and orchestra. According to the booklet the sound has been remastered in Digital in 2014. The sound is first rate. Booklet has no index, track numbers etc, only a essay Vengerov, "Once in a hundred years." Translated in French and German.
I will go across the page, place the date published first, then the composer, music, pianist or conductor and orchestra, plus a few comments of my own and that of the Penquin guides 1996 and 2008.
BEETHOVEN: (1992) Violin Concerto No 5, " Spring". The Adagio is better then the Perlman Ashkenazy rendition, as is the whole concept of Vengerov's vision of the Spring. MOZART: Violin Sonata in B flat major, K378. The Andantino is stunningly beautiful. Heartbreakingly so. Piano- Itamar Golan. MENDELSSOHN: (1992) Violin Sonata in F Major.Piano- Alex Markovich. Vengerov seems to capture the spirit of this piece. BEETHOVEN:(1991) Violin Sonata No 9 in A Major, op 47. "Kreutzer". Markovich and the violinist find an affinity in this piece. BRAHMS: Violin Sonata No 2 in A Major, op 100. Piano- Alex Markovich. There is an underlying vitality here.
ENCORES -WIENIAWSKI:(1993) Polonaise No 1 in D major,op 4. PAGANINI: I palpiti,op 13, (arr kreisler). This piece captures Vengerov's technique and sheer distinctive emotionalism. WIENIAWSKI: Legende, op 17. KREISLER: Schon Rosmarin. BLOCH: Nigun no 2 from Baal Shem. TCHAIKOVSKY: Scherzo No 2 from Souvenir d'un lieu cher op 42. Melodie No 3 from Souvenir d'un lieu cher op 42. KREISLER: Tambourin chinois. MESSIAEN: Theme et variations. KREISLER: Caprice viennois. SARASATE: Caprice basque. BAZZINI: La Ronde des lutins, op 25. These pieces show off his technique which is brilliant and is noted for his unique tone.
PAGANINI:(1992) Violin Concerto No 1 in D major, op 6. The Andante shows off Vangerov at his best. He gives a strongly extrovert account with fireworks in the finale. SAINT-SAENS: Introduction et Rondo capriccioso, op 28.Havanaise. Here he produces a ravishing tone. WAXMAN: Carmen Fantasy.Invites the flamboyance that the young Siberian can provide. Israel Philharmonic Orch cond Zubin Metha. BRUCH:(1993). Violin concerto No 1 in G minor,op 26. MENDELSSOHN: Violin Concerto in E minor, op 64. Gewandhausorchester Leipzig cond Kurt Masur. I listened to the Bruch Violin No 1 concerto's Adagio played by four different violinists. Heifetz (1962) New symphony Orch of London cond Sargent. Francescatti (1952) New York Phil cond Mitropoulos. Erica Moroni (1959) cond Fricsay and Vengerov (1993) cond Masur. Moroni treats the adagio as if it were a gentle serenade to that thin veil we call the spirit. But Vengerov with his sweet emotional sound captures this piece's inner musical serenity. The two other great violinists are equally as good treating this adagio differently. The Mendelssohn is simply ravishing, along with Masur's swift sympathetic conducting of the Gewandhaus orch.
PROKOFIEV: (1994)Violin Concerto No 1 in D major, op 19 &(1996) Violin Concerto No 2. Cond Rostropovich /London Symphony orch. Vengerov's magnetism in both concerto's is in no doubt; his playing is full of life, helped by Rostropovich's accompanment. The 2nd Concerto Andante Assai is played to perfection by this violinist. SHOSTAKOVICH: (1994) Violin concerto's No 1 & (1996) No 2. London Symphony orchestra cond Rostropovich. Vengerov gets inside both Concerto's and finds an added depth of poetic feeling. Yet retaining the music's thrust. The 1st's concerto Passacaglia: Andante is a marvel. The opening of the 2nd Concerto and the Adagio is memorable. TCHAIKOVSKY:(1995) Violin Concerto in D major, op 35. The composer in 1878 dedicated it to Leopold Auer, the great teacher, who declared it unplayable. Eventually, Auer changed his mind and introduced it to the young prodigy of whom he was so proud-Jascha Heifetz, Chicago Symphony orch cond Reiner. Vengerov is good, possibly an inspired performance breathing new life into a well known piece. But the master, Heifetz is better. Abbado's conducting of the finale is swift and sympathetic. GLAZUNOV: Violin Concerto in A minor,op 82. Berlin Philharmonic cond Abbado. This is a work of far wide ranging emotions where Vengerov contrasts and shades the tone colours magically. Remarkable. Stunning and beautiful.
SIBELIUS:(1996) Violin Concerto in D minor, op 47.Chicago symphony orch, cond Barenboim. Unfortunately, Vengerov does not quite capture Sibelius's sound world especially in the Adagio, but Barenboim does in his conducting. Heifetz in the Adagio is beyond beautiful. NIELSEN: Violin Concerto, op 33. Chicago Symphony Orch cond Barenboim. Vengerov captures that unique sound of Nielsen and Barenboim conducts well. BRAHMS:(1999) LIVE. Violin Concerto in D Minor, op 77. Chicago Symphony Orchestera cond Barenboim. Vengerov's success was based upon the Russian romantic and 20th century repertory. After playing this difficult Brahms concerto, he emerges as the greatest violinist of his generation. It has tension, and the lyrical beauty is brought to the fore. Violin Sonata no 3, op 108. Barenboim plays the piano and Vengerov brings out the mystery. Both have an understanding here. DVORAK:(1997) LIVE. Violin Concerto in A minor, op 53. New York Philharmonic cond Masur. ELGAR Sonata for piano and violin, op 82. Piano- Revital Chachamov. The violinist performs not only with effortless brilliance and dazzling command that are expected. But with feeling, freshness and spontaneity. He receives excellent support from Masur. The Elgar sonata is passionate.
SHCHEDRIN:(1999) Concerto Cantabile. Vengerov's performances combine a powerful lyricism with the composers tonal variety. STRAVINSKY: Violin Concerto in D major.Very spiky and the violinist is in his element. TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade melancolique, op 26. A refined reading. London Symphony orch cond Rostropovich. A ENSEMBLE of violinists with Vag Papian at the piano. RACHMANINOV:(2001) Vocalise. His playing is heart felt here. PONCE: Estrellita. (original transcription by Heifetz). BRAHMS: Hungarian dances. Nos 7, 1 and No 5. NOVACEK: Perpetuum Mobile. DVORAK: Humoreske in G flat major op 101, No 7. TCHAIKOVSKY: three pieces for violin and piano. Meditation. Melodie. Scherzo. SCHUBERT: Ave Maria. Stunningly beautiful. BAZZINI: La Ronde des lutins. Encores: KHACHATURIAN: Sabre Dance from Gayaneh. MASSENET: Meditation from Thais. Beautiful. MONTI: Csardas. YSAYE: Sonata's No's 2, 3,4 & 6. SHCHEDRIN: Echo Sonata. J.S. BACH: Sonata in A minor (Toccata and Fugue) BWV 565. SHCHEDRIN: Balalaika.LIVE. (dedicated to Vengerov). LALO:(2003) Symphonie Espagnile op 51. Brings to the fore his brilliant technique. SAINT-SAENS: Violin Concerto No 3 in B Minor, op 61. RAVEL: Tizgane, rapsodie de concert. Philharmonia Orchestra cond Pappano. His playing of the Saint- Saens Andantino shows why he is so admired.
WIENIAWSKI:(2004) Theme original varie, op 15. PAGANINI: Cantabile. KREISLER: Liebesleid. Liebesfreud. WIENIAWSKI: Polanaise brilliant No 1 in S major, op 4. RACHMANINOV: Vocalise, op 34 No 14. Variation No 18 (from Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini) arr Kreisler. SARASATE: Introduction et tarentelle. op 43. WIENIAWSKI: Polonaise brilliant No 2 in A minor, op 21. Scherzo- tarantelle, op 16. John WILLIAMS: Theme from Schinder's List. YSAYE: Caprice d' apres l'etude en form de valse de Saint- Saens, op 52. Piano Ian Brown. BEETHOVEN:(2005) Violin Concerto. Romances 1 & 2. London symphony Orchestra cond Rostropovich. This conductors opening is very slow, but does not seem to affect Vengerov with his astounding technique. In fact he seems to thrive on it. Gradually this movement does speed up slightly. The Larghetto at 9.27 mins is faster then the Schneiderhan version at 10.49 mins and the Rondo at 9.56 mins where Rostropovich becomes swifter, is faster then Schneiderhan again at 10. 54 mins. What the conductor is aiming at, is a more meditative violin concerto. Many have criticised this version; however it is as valid as the RCA Beethoven Concerto with Heifetz and the Boston Symphony orch cond Munch -1955. And Scheiderhan Berlin Philharmonic cond Jochum-1962. They, naturally are faster. MOZART:(2006) Sinfonia concertante in E flat major, K364. Violin Concerto No 2 in D major, K 211, No 4 in D major, k218. Vengerov violin/director. Power Viola. Ubs Verbier festival Chamber orchestra. The orchestra is drawn from Musicians aged 19 and 29. He scales his powerful tone down to suit the orchestra. His rapport with them results in fresh and spontaneous sounding performances. I have enjoyed his playing in the Mozart concerto's. DVD LIVING THE DREAM, watch first. A very enjoyable set by the greatest violinist of his generation.