Classical CD Reviews
GLAZOUNOV: Violin Concerto in A Minor; Meditation; Mazurka-oberek; SCHOECK: Concerto quasi una fantasia – Chloe Hanslip, violin/ Orch. della Svizzera Italiana/ Alexander Vedernikov – Hyperion
Published on March 1, 2013
GLAZOUNOV: Violin Concerto in A Minor, Op. 82; Meditation in D Major, Op. 32; Mazurka-oberek in D Major; SCHOECK: Concerto quasi una fantasia in B-flat Major, Op. 21 – Chloe Hanslip, violin/ Orch. della Svizzera Italiana/ Alexander Vedernikov – Hyperion CDA67940, 69:11 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Recorded in the Auditorio Stelio Molo, Lugano, Switzerland, 18-21 October 2011, this pretty but unorthodox coupling of the music of Alexander Glazounov and Othmar Schoeck pairs Chloe Hanslip with Russian conductor Alexander Vedernikov (b. 1964). Perhaps as an “offspring” of her tutelage under the Russian pedagogue Zakhar Bron and iconoclast violinist Ida Haendel, Ms. Hanslip harbors an acquired affection for these two composers, bringing to the infrequent Schoeck Concerto (1910-1911) a rare commitment and resonant vitality.
Much of Hanslip’s playing of the music of Glazounov hearkens back to the artistry of Nathan Milstein, whose fondness and natural expertise in the Glazounov Violin Concerto (1904) and Meditation (1891) possessed an equally illumined elegance. In terms of lyric outpouring, the one-movement concerto provides a fluid, singing vehicle for Hanslip, as well as beguiling moments from the Swiss orchestra’s horn, flute, triangle, and harp. Later, for the last movement Allegro, the trumpet announced a visceral Cossack (rondo) dance with hunting energies well driven by conductor Vedernikov. Hanslip adds to the sonorities a decided rustic snap and violin-as-harmonium or balalaika affect. The arrangement of the salon Meditation for violin and orchestra comes from British composer John Foulds. More to the rakish point lies Glazounov’s 1917 Mazurka-oberek, a piece that derives much of its sometimes heavy-footed impetus from Polish dances much in the manner of Chopin and Wieniawski. Typically, the rough-hewn figures utilize a triple meter in dotted rhythm with strong accents on the second or third beat. If Hanslip reminds me of any past master in this fanciful work, it would be Erica Morini.
Swiss Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) maintains his repute more as a composer for voice and various ensembles than as a master of instrumental music. Schoeck created his one-movement concerto-fantasy for violinist Steffi Geyer (1888-1956), the inspiring muse for Bela Bartok’s First Concerto (aka First Portrait, Op. 5). A rather substantial work in three sections, the Concerto exhibits ardent lyric expressivity in rhapsodically meandering terms, hence the quasi una fantasia designation. Often, the melodic filigree reminds us of Schumann, songful and repetitive, marked by a warm harmonic syntax with an occasional modal excursion borrowed from studies with Max Reger. The rhapsodic or ‘martial’ elements might hearken to another Max —Bruch – especially with their orchestration’s relying on winds, horns, and harp. A decidedly bucolic impulse makes the first movement Allegretto seem a descendant of the Dvorak Concerto.
The slow movement Grave, non troppo lento begins with some of the most sinister and beguiling harmony in the Concerto, comprised by drum beats under haunted woodwinds. The violin speaks in parlando fashion, reminiscent of the piano’s trying to soothe a disturbed universe in Beethoven’s G Major Concerto’s second movement. The orchestral tuttis from Vedernikov serve to make us more curious about Schoeck’s skills in the larger forms. At the end of the reverie or the uneasy dreams, the music modulates to the major, anticipating the finale’s use of a pastoral motif in the woodwinds. The last movement, Allegro con spirito, seems to me the Concerto’s Achilles heel, suffering from a surfeit of ideas that do not mesh well together. Part energetic dance, part introspective meditation, the music might have fared better had this dichotomy persisted to some resolution; but Schoeck suddenly injects a folk-tune, extended coda that frankly lacks inspiration. Never, though, does Hanslip’s silken playing suffer a lapse or false note, emanating a fluent grace and virile sweetness that will win Schoeck’s opus faithful adherents despite itself.