Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 4 - Fantasies on Don Giovanni and Der Freischutz
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Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 4
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This volume concludes Tianwa Yang's internationally acclaimed series of recordings of Pablo de Sarasate's works for violin and orchestra. This stunning programme includes the popular Introduction et Tarantelle and two delightful jotas. Sarasate's scintillating flying staccato technique is heard in the Fantaisie on Weber's 'Der Freischutz', while Le Rêve is a remarkable work in every way. 'Yang is splendidly equipped as a Sarasate violinist, with her clear tone, pure intonation, impressive dexterity and light touch... startlingly beautiful.' (Gramophone on Volume 3, 8.572275)
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Certainly, one must include the Introduction et Tarantelle among Sarasate's most-popular pieces, and when you hear Yang play it, you understand why. It's lilting and soaring and tuneful, with parts for both lovely slow playing and flashy fast showmanship. The jota also has enough variety and virtuosity to keep one engaged, and again Yang's playing is sensitive and alert. If there is any minor issue, it's that one almost forgets there's an orchestra playing behind her. Yet if you make yourself conscious of it, it plays along with enthusiasm.
Next, we find the centerpieces of the program: the Fantaisie sur le Don Juan de Mozart, Op. 51, and Fantaisie sur Der Freischutz de Weber, Op. 14, each about ten or twelve minutes long. Sarasate did a number of fantasies (around eight, I believe), and here we get an earlier and a later such work. The Mozart and Weber fantasies are, of course, medley pastiches, and as such some listeners may look down on them for their lack of originality. But Yang plays them with great dignity and refinement, and one cannot help admire their sheer elegance. And who can deny that Sarasate wasn't passing along great music?
To conclude the album, we get three more short pieces--the Jota de Pamplona, Op. 50, the Airs ecossais, Op. 34, the L'Esprit follet, Op. 48--and the longer (relatively speaking at eleven minutes) Le Reve, Op. 53. Of these final works, the Jota de Pamplona has a jaunty bounce, and Yang captures what seems to me a genuine Spanish flavor with her expressive playing. In Airs ecossais ("Scottish Airs") as the name implies Sarasate gives us a break from Spain and a whiff of Scottish atmosphere, with much in the way of Scottish folk tunes. Yang seems equally at home in the music as she did in the Spanish-flavored numbers. Then Yang delivers the penultimate item, Le Reve, exquisitely and even does a little showing off of her own in the closing track, L'Esprit follet ("The Will-o-the-Wisp"), which sounds as though she must have four hands and twenty digits to execute it.
Understand, as this is volume four in a series, Yang had already done a lot of Sarasate's most-popular material in earlier editions, things like the Carmen Fantasy and Zigeunerweisen. Nevertheless, a good part of the composer's music is entertaining enough to warrant a listen, and Yang's playing is so felicitous it's hard not to want to hear more. This is a delightful album in almost every way: good music, a good soloist, good accompaniment, and audio reproduction that is up to the task.
The violin is clearly out in front, perhaps a tad more so than one would hear a soloist in a live concert. Nevertheless, the violin has a pleasantly smooth, rounded sound that is pleasant to hear--not bright or edgy as some close-up violins can be. The orchestra appears spread out behind the soloist in a fairly resonant acoustic that provides a pleasing ambient glow for the music making. Clarity, dynamics, and frequency response are all more than adequate for the occasion and offer further satisfaction by way of easy listening.
John J. Puccio