Search - Jeno Hubay, Joachim Raff, Igor Stravinsky :: Opera Fantasies for Violin

Opera Fantasies for Violin
Jeno Hubay, Joachim Raff, Igor Stravinsky
Opera Fantasies for Violin
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (9) - Disc #1


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A virtuoso violin disc that's unusual and refreshing
klavierspiel | TX, USA | 10/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The fantasy on themes from an opera is a quintessential product of nineteenth-century virtuosity. Today Franz Liszt is so identified with this genre that it is hard to think of it apart from him, but many composers of the day tried their hand at it, and not all of them were pianists. Livia Sohn has gathered together an album of such pieces for violin, mostly solo violin and piano, but some with a third partner (violin in one, viola in another, both ably played by her husband Geoff Nuttall). Not only are the nineteenth-century representatives almost uniformly unfamiliar, she performs a surprising array of contemporary examples.

The only operatic fantasy for violin from the nineteenth century that really remains in the repertory today is Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy, which nicely balances the two necessities of the genre: to present popular melodies in such a way that their familiarity can be enjoyed, while dressing them up with appropriately flashy but not overbearing virtuosity. Sohn's collection gets off to a somewhat inauspicious start with two examples from the period that are not nearly as successful, Hubay's much weaker take on the Carmen themes and a really lame effort by Joachim Raff on the "Bridal March" and "Elsa's Dream" from Wagner's Lohengrin, which plays its trump card (combining the two) much too early and is left to fill its time with trite decoration.

Things definitely pick up with the next few tracks, presenting modern examples: transcriptions of melodies from Stravinsky's Mavra and a contemporary opera, Ainadamar. I have to say my favorite was Prutsman's recent potpourri on themes from Strauss' Rosenkavalier, which proves that sometimes it's best just to step back and let gorgeous melodies shine. Prutsman knows exactly when to embroider and when to just transcribe. The same goes for Benjamin Loeb's (also the accompanist for Sohn) transcription of Bizet's famous duet from the Pearl Fishers--such a melody would only lose by being decorated.

Sohn plays throughout with sweet tone and accurate intonation. While her virtuoso fireworks are impressive, one senses caution rather than the necessary abandon in some of the most difficult passages. Despite the second-rate nature of some of the music, though, this is a novel and most enjoyable violin CD."
Livia is awesome
Eric Cheng | Oakland, CA | 10/07/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Livia is a good friend of mine, so I can't be objective. But I love to hear her perform, and I listen to the CD a lot. Definitely recommended."