Classical CD Reviews

WIENIAWSKI: Violin Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor; CONUS: Violin Concerto; VIEUXTEMPS: Fantasia appassionata in G Minor – Soo-Hyun Parkl, violin/ Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/ Nicholas Milton – Onyx

In an auspicious debut album Soo-Hyun Park performs some fresh Romantic repertory without the clichés that bravura virtuosos too often seek.

Published on April 8, 2013

WIENIAWSKI: Violin Concerto No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, Op. 14; CONUS: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 1; VIEUXTEMPS: Fantasia appassionata in G Minor, Op. 35 – Soo-Hyun Parkl, violin/ Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz/ Nicholas Milton – Onyx 4109, 69:25 [Distr. By Harmonia mundi] ****:  

South Korean violin virtuoso Soo-Hyun  Park (b. 1989) debuts on CD most auspiciously, avoiding the ad nauseam procession of Tchaikovsky/Mendelssohn candidates. Her program brings back memories of those past fiddlers who enjoyed their sense of uniqueness: the Wieniawski First Concerto invokes images of Michael Rabin; the Vieuxtemps Fantasia might raise the image of a young Salvatore Accardo; and the Conus Concerto had one great acolyte, Jascha Heifetz.

The Wieniawski First Concerto (1852) is the product of the seventeen-year-old violin virtuoso composer, who had been touring with pieces he arranged for his own use. Drawing upon melodic formulas taken from compatriot Frederic Chopin, Wieniawski opens with consecutive tenths in wide spans, the rhythmic thrust pure sturm und drang. Dotted rhythms and assorted technical challenges in harmonics move the piece along, with Wieniawski’s natural penchant for lyric melody a decided asset. The late Ruggiero Ricci favored this bravura piece, accepting its demanding octaves as an inevitable aspect of its “finger-breaking.” The digital shifts and finger-crossings Ms. Park accomplishes with smooth facility, and the hurtling energy of the first movement advances without a ruffle. The throaty cadenza compels our attention as much for its brooding intimacy as for its sudden explosions of flute-toned bravura.

The second movement Wieniawski designates Preghiera: Larghetto, a moment of pietist meditation in between two Herculean movements rife with fertile, idiomatically fiddle energies. The so-called ‘Prayer” movement may nod obliquely to the slow movement from Viotti’s A Minor Concerto. Wieniawski in his own lifetime received an acclaim concomitant with his being the natural heir to the Paganini tradition, even as he spoke in his native Polish rhythmic syntax. The last movement Rondo: Allegro giocoso provides a natural dance (Oberek) of spirited, animated colors, shared among the solo, strings, and horns. As lithely sinuous as it is energetic, the Rondo has our feet tapping and national hearts thumping with a richly endowed counter-subject. The last thrilling pages merely confirm the joyous association of soloist and spirited orchestral accompaniment, a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Russian composer Julius Conus (1869-1942) survives in music due to his 1898 Violin Concerto, which premiered in Moscow. Like the Mendelssohn Concerto and Bruch G Minor Concerto, the Conus work segues the three movements into one continuous stream of sound. Its decidedly conservative syntax splices any number of virtuoso formulas together into a pleasant rhapsody, a passionate nocturne that may remind some listeners of Saint-Saens more than Tchaikovsky. Occasionally, the emotional outbursts anticipate the Hollywood glow-treatment when it wants to present the classics without any danger of deep thought. The Adagio nicely pairs the violin solo and French horn. A parlando Cadenza moves us into the last movement’s Allegro subito, a fleet moto-perpetuo rush that taxes the fingers and orchestra’s brass section. Conus then reverts to his melodic formulas once more that likely owe their methods to his sponsor Tchaikovsky. After another cadenza with rather predictable double stops and Tchaikovsky musing, the orchestra rejoins the poetic soul of the violin for a final series of spitfire gestures, moto-perpetuo, that generate a dramatic thump for a conclusion.

Henri Vieuxtemps (1820-1881) stood as “the other” successor to Niccolo Paganini. Berlioz called Vieuxtemps’ First Concerto “a magnificent symphony for violin and orchestra.” Composed in the late 1850s, the Fantasia appassionata falls into four sections that broadly define a large sonata. The opening G Minor Allegro moderato projects muscle power and lyric sentiment simultaneously. The ensuing Moderato delivers a theme and variations with a salon tint. Should a piano composer set the same tune for that instrument, we should not be surprised. The last variants in rapid alterations of arco and finger switching have our full attention when the music shifts to a moving Largo section that basks in pastoral colors.  The solo part intermixed with special colors points to Spohr and Wagner at once. For a whirlwind finale, Vieuxtemps conjures up a lively Saltarello, four minutes’ worth of flirtatious, infectious bravura that should long cement the distance between Paris and Naples with good will.

—Gary Lemco




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