Classical CD Reviews

Nicola Benedetti: The Silver Violin = WILLIAMS: Schindler’s List Main Theme; KORNGOLD: Tanzlied des Pierrot from Die Tote Stadt; Violin Concerto in D; Marietta’s Lied from Die Tote Stadt; GARDEL: Por una cabeza; SHOSTAKOVICH: Romance; Andante; Prelude; HESS: Ladies in Lavender Main Theme; MARIANELLI: My Edward &I from Jane Eyre; SHORE: Concertino from Eastern Promises; MAHLER: Piano Quartet in A Minor – Nicola Benedetti, violin & ens. & orch. – Decca

Violinist Nicola Benedetti pays homage to the Silver Screen with a host of romantic and passionate film score arrangements, of which those by Erich Korngold provide the original impetus.

Published on May 18, 2013

Nicola Benedetti: The Silver Violin = WILLIAMS: Schindler’s List Main Theme; KORNGOLD: Tanzlied des Pierrot from Die Tote Stadt, Op. 12; Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35; Marietta’s Lied from Die Tote Stadt; GARDEL: Por una cabeza; SHOSTAKOVICH: Romance; Andante; Prelude; HESS: Ladies in Lavender Main Theme; MARIANELLI: My Edward &I from Jane Eyre; SHORE: Concertino from Eastern Promises; MAHLER: Piano Quartet in A Minor – Nicola Benedetti, violin/ Alexei Grynyuk, piano/ Alexander Sitkovesky, violin/ Leonard Elschenbroich, cello/ Tom Dunn, viola/ Kseija Sidorova, accordion/ Bournemouth Sym. Orch./ Kirill Karabits – Decca B0017609-02, 77:57 [Distr. by Universal] ****:

Scottish violin virtuoso Nicola Benedetti (b. 1987) dedicates an album to her love of the cinema, using the 1945 Violin Concerto by Erich Korngold as her fulcrum, a piece itself constructed from movements from his film scores: Another Dawn, Juarez, Anthony Adverse, and The Prince and the Pauper. In Benedetti’s case, the classic recording by Jascha Heifetz proved pivotal. She then conceived her idea to utilize scores originally conceived for the violin directly, without “adaptation,” although several arrangement appear here. The works make a kind of sophisticated transition of the classical concert idiom into the popular mode of the movie score, perhaps breaking any snobbish distinction between the two genres. Certainly, the John Williams score for Schindler’s List made emotionally poignant for the popular mind the plight of the oppressed Jews by National Socialism, and in that way extends to the suffering of all abused peoples. The so-called Tanzlied from Die Tote Stadt gives us an aria was transcribed for violin and piano (here with orchestra) directly by Korngold himself, a nostalgic Viennese waltz that celebrates Marietta’s beauty. The soaring loveliness of the Violin Concerto, realized by Benedetti and conductor Karabits, should win it a new cadre of fond admirers.

A more experimental moment in this survey occurs with John Lenchen’s transcription of Por una cabeza by Argentine composer Carlos Gardel, a sultry tango danced by the blind Vietnam War veteran Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. The ensemble playing the piece includes the accordion, string trio, and piano. Some flashy improvisation ensues, a development section that adds a decided bravura to the effect. Dmitri Shostakovich, too, embraced the film medium as passionately as he had the symphonic realm. The Romance from the film The Gadfly has assumed a main-stream popularity. From the film music for The Counterplan, Op. 33, we hear the lovely Andante, whose melos would like to compete with Massenet’s famous Meditation. The beautiful duet for two violins and piano (with Alexander Sitkovesky and Alexei Grynyuk) from The Gadly, Op. 97a, the Prelude, sounds like a piece stolen from Dvorak. Another spectacular melody emerges from the Main Theme of the film Ladies in Lavender by Nigel Hess, whose Elgar-like beauty captures a moment from a violin concerto performed by a young man whom Maggie Smith and Judi Dench had saved from drowning. A particularly haunting arrangement, the music by Dario Marianelli for Jane Eyre (“My Edward & I”) has Alexei Grynyuk’s evocative piano play against Benedetti’s silken violin and the orchestra.

Canadian composer Howard Shore has some 80 film scores to his credit, and his music for the 2007 David Cronenberg melodrama Eastern Promises features Benedetti herself on the original soundtrack.  The lurid thriller seems “redeemed” by the power of this exotic score. In the second excerpt from the film score, Greg Knowles adds the cimbalom to the mix for Tatiana, as we recall the weirdly seductive power of the Russian Mafia tattoos as they appeared on Viggo Mortensen as he attempts to free a girl from London sex-trafficking. We may recall that young Erich Korngold found a sponsor in Gustav Mahler, so it is no mere coincidence that Mahler’s own youthful Piano Quartet (1876) from the Martin Scorcese 2010 murder-thriller Shutter Island should appear on this survey. The passionate one-movement piece exists as Mahler’s only surviving moment of chamber music, although he is reputed to have written a lost violin sonata. The movie stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, and Patricia Clarkson, enough Hollywood power to insure Benedetti her own “spill” of the light along any musical Walk of Fame. Appropriately, the disc concludes with Korngold’s aria “Marietta’s Lied” (Gluck, das mir verblieb), in which the heroine laments the loss of her loved one, Paul, although it is he who maintains a “Temple of Memories.”

—Gary Lemco




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