on 8 November 2003
After the last Vengerov recording to be issued (Britten Violin Concerto/Walton Viola Concerto) I wrote "For me any new Vengerov recording is an eagerly awaited event, but this time he has surpassed himself"...
I am afraid I will have to eat my words! yet again Maxim Vengerov has produced a stunning recording - the Lalo-Symphonie Espagnole is superb, with sweeps of emotion and amazing technical control.... and the Ravel - Tzigane ...well what can I say - its amazing pyrotechnics and superb ability. I wish I knew how he managed some of the sounds he produces!
Maxim Vengerov is able to bring an incredeble intensity and depth of emotion to his violin and his technical brilliance is unsurpassed (in my opinion).
If you are a fan of Vengerov's playing (like me) this will be an automatic addition to your collection; if you are a classical violin music lover its essential... and if you have never tried classical music before - you could do worse than to start with this!!!
on 11 November 2005
On one fairly mediocre Saturday in May, having had the pleasure of spending the morning attending the rehearsal of Sir Charles Mackerras, I wander backstage and gradually begin to hear a beautifully faint virtuosic melody filtering through the thin corridors. A minute or two later, after curiously hanging around the vicinity of the guilty dressing room, I see two familiar faces appear, one with a baton and a score, another with a rather attractive violin.
The first face was no surprise to me: he was the whole reason why I had stayed that afternoon. The second, however, suddenly had the presence to raise my heartbeat two-fold it seemed, not because of a small heart attack, but because this friendly individual was arguably the most famous instrumentalist living today.
With eager excitement, I soon ran up to the auditorium of the Royal Festival Hall, where the rehearsal was taking place, and with the innate discipline that was so subtly though clearly obvious in comparison to Mackerras, Antonio Pappano began the music-making. I knew all along that Antonio was making a CD, but I had no idea of what, nor did I know that I would have the enormous privilege of seeing Maxim Vengerov make what was already expected to be one of the great recordings of the year. Of course, I wasted no time, and having gained permission from the Maestro and the orchestra, I made bloody sure I was going to the following week's recording sessions over at Air Studios.
Both are just there to make music. Unlike most soloists, with his remarkably down-to-earth nature, Vengerov never seemed the dominant role in the sessions. It was as though they were colleagues of equal status just doing a job to the best of their ability. For example, in the slow movement of the Saint-Saëns, Pappano briefly brings the attentive soloist to one side and points out the shape of a particular phrase, as well as the appropriate articulation and tone needed: Vengerov is quick to apologize to the orchestra. Actually, he apologized quite a lot that day, and I, along with the orchestra and everybody else just couldn't understand how such fabulous player could be so humble. It was as though he believed that not only Pappano to be his twin, but the orchestra as well. It was fascinating stuff: so refreshing for me, especially when one sees so much pretension within the music world.
To add, this disc of well-known French delights was made on a far superior musical level to anything I've seen before. And it really shows. Unlike most recordings, the orchestra has a very noticeable role. The strings of the Philharmonia make, I believe, the best sound of any British orchestra and this, along with the ensemble's unique ability to react so responsively to Pappano's direction, gives the recording that rare, extra dimension which makes it so good.
Vengerov's technical prowess means that he can always play the difficult pieces (such as the Ravel) with the typical character and flare which he is so famous for. For those who think it's all just an act, it's not. Trust me...this guy knows exactly what he's doing: both Pappano and Vengerov have thought about every single note. (The 'show' that Vengerov's charisma demands, is only a result of what the music demands). This is a record composed of some fantastic repertoire, made by fantastic musicians. Buy it.
20th Nov 2003
on 21 July 2014
I'm not a great fan of Ravel's "Tzigane." It's like a cake crammed with all the goodies that the cook can put his or her hands on and just sounds a bit too forced to me. If you have a higher tolerance than I have for the piece, this recording won't disappoint you -- great fiddling, with all the tricks of the trade showed off in their proper places, and (as with everything else on the disc) an excellent balance between violin and orchestra, with plenty of presence for both without anything being too close up. The Saint-Saens Concerto No.3 is given a lovely performance, with the great middle movement, which has the feel of a barcarolle, particularly affecting. The whole concerto has plenty of variety, and it's very well orchestrated, and Pappano and Vengerov handle the transitions beautifully. I find the final movement a bit anti-climactic after the first two, but it doesn't lack thematic variety (almost being a little mini-concerto in itself) and Vengerov plays it with total commitment. The unqualifiedly great piece on the disc, to my ears, is the Lalo "Symphonie Espagnole." The sheer inventiveness of the "Spanish" material is amazing, and yet it's put together in the individual movements to give each its distinct character. The writing for the orchestra, in color as well as rhythm, is equally enchanting, and we are never far from the spirit of the dance. The slow movement doesn't have the emotional pull of the Saint-Saens -- it's a bit cooler -- but the richness and weight of the orchestral lead-in is almost alone worth the price of the set. Throughout the program, Vengerov doesn't put a foot wrong, and Pappano and the Philharmonia don't either.
These are all popular pieces, and there are other excellent recordings -- I'm partial to Lin's Saint-Saens with Tilson Thomas -- but really, this is as good as anything out there.