SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“White Nights” – Russian Violin Music – Deborah Marchetti, v./Vovka Ashkenazy, p. – Sony Music

This Sony album will be a great entry point to any who wishes to uncover the art of Deborah Marchetti and Vovka Ashkenazy.

Published on April 1, 2010

“White Nights” –  Russian Violin Music – Deborah Marchetti, v./Vovka Ashkenazy, p. – Sony Music

"White Nights" -  Russian Violin Music – STRAVINSKY: Danse Russe (from Petrushka), Berceuse (from The Firebird); TCHAIKOVSKY: Humoresque (from Two Pieces for Piano, Op. 10); MUSSORGSKY: Gopak (from Sorochinsky Fair); JUON: White Night Op. 49a (from Violin Concerto No.2 in A, Op. 49); GLAZOUNOV: Méditation in D, Op. 32; RACHMANINOFF: Romance No. 1 in D Minor (from Deux Morceaux de Salon Op. 6), Romance in A Minor (1880); PROKOFIEV: Violin Sonata No.1 in F Minor, Op. 80 – Deborah Marchetti (Violin); Vovka Ashkenazy (Piano) – Sony Music multichannel SACD 88697 53081 2, 56:35 ***½:

While Switzerland and Russia may seem distance apart, this Sony album attempts to bring these two countries in close proximity through musical ventures featured in the hour-long programme. Two qualities may support this claim: First, there are the artists. Violinist Deborach Marchetti shares a duo Swiss-Italian nationality. She has been known for her multifaceted musical personality and magnetism on stage as a performer. Her musical partner, Vovka Ashkenazy, is a pianist of Russian origin and Icelandic parentage. Mr. Ashkenazy has likewise earned a name on the international platform as a pianist of dynamic virtuosity. Together with his father, pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy and brother, clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy, Mr. Ashkenazy has made no less impressive concert appearances in countries including Greece, Hong Kong and Japan. Second, the featured composition that shares the name of this album, comes from a composer whose tides originate from these two countries.

Three world premiere recordings are presented here. “White Night” is extracted from the slow second movement of the Violin Concerto No.2 Op.49 by Swiss-Russian composer Paul Juon from 1912. It is one of the world premiere recordings arranged by the composer himself. This is a work that depicts the nocturnal imageries indigenous to the nights of St. Petersburg in Russia during the summer months of June and July, when the “midnight sky is bathed in a silvery light until, some five and a half hours later, the twilight gives way to the full light of the sun.” Here, Marchetti and Ashkenazy recreate the poetic metaphor and atmospheric quietude of the summer nights, by giving a colorful portrayal as exemplified in the lyrical and melancholic central section. Mussorgsky’s Gopak from “Sorochinsky Fair,” transcribed by Rachmaninoff, is another first in the album. The transcriber, after his first success with the version for violin solo, extended his fascination with this second arrangement in order to explore further the indigenous folk-dance elements. Marchetti and Ashkenazy are faithful in rendering the palette of musical colors and shades of sound through their teamwork between the violin and piano. Listen to how Marchetti exploits her tone colors with the open strings (fifths) in striking contrast with the pizzicatos and bow strokes, while Ashkenazy provides his partner the harmonic balance facilitated by his technical agility. The final composition to make its premiere on disc is Tchaikovsky’s own transcription of the Humoresque Op.10 No. 2, written originally for the piano solo, but arranged by the composer himself for the two instruments. Reference to the old French folksong “La fille aux oranges” can be heard in the middle section, wherein both artists deliver with impeccable tenderness and sensitivity.  

Marchetti and Ashkenazy fill the remainder of this album with no less fascinating transcriptions of the Russian pedigree. This includes transcriptions by Samuel Dushkin on two of Stravinsky’s celebrated ballets “The Firebird” and “Petrushka.” Here, the music duo rendered imaginative accounts to what are ironically neglected pieces in the repertory of today’s finest virtuosi. Likewise, Glazunov’s Méditation and Rachmaninoff’s two Romances bring forth some of the most beautiful melodies known from the Russian music literature, and it is more than a pleasing experience to hear the provocative and sensual interpretations offered by Marchetti and Ashkenazy. Arguably, the highlight to the recital programme is saved to the last, with Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata in F Minor, which was once the championed warhorse of its dedicatees, David Oistrakh and Lev Oborin. Here, Marchetti and Ashkenazy have roles that are polar opposites of each other. Ashkenazy provides a provoking impression of uncertainty and darkness of character with his piano bass-line, while Marchetti provides a bright, yet impressionistic contour with her string melodies. The four movements outline these contrasts with unpretentiousness from our two soloists; together, they provide listeners a wide array into their musical characters that is as fascinating to uncover as the piece itself. Recorded at Studio Zürich in Switzerland in March 2009, this Sony album will be a great entry point to any who wishes to uncover the art of  Deborah Marchetti and Vovka Ashkenazy.

– Patrick P.L. Lam




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