Elgar Works for Violin & Piano

Author: 
Andrew Achenbach

Elgar Works for Violin & Piano

  • Romance
  • Mazurka
  • Bizarrerie
  • Serenade
  • (Une) Idylle
  • Chanson de nuit
  • Chanson de matin
  • (La) Capricieuse
  • Gavotte
  • Salut d'amour, 'Liebesgrüss'
  • Etude-Caprice
  • May song
  • Virelai
  • In Hammersbach
  • Carissima
  • Adieu
  • (5) Etudes Characteristiques

Born in 1962, Marat Bisengaliev originally hails from Kazakhstan and is a prize-winning graduate from the Moscow Conservatory. He has made a number of well-received discs for Naxos and on the evidence of this most enjoyable anthology is a violinist of great technical accomplishment and communicative warmth, and he generates a really fine rapport with the admirable Benjamin Frith.
As the opening Romance (with its striking echoes of the finale from Schumann’s Fourth Symphony) immediately reveals, these artists bring an affectingly uncloying, totally unforced naturalness of expression to this charming repertoire. Even such well-worn nuggets as the two Chansons and Salut d’amour emerge with a new-minted freshness. Only in La capricieuse did I feel that the rubato lacked the last ounce of spontaneity. (Or is it simply because I can’t erase from my memory the 16-year-old Josef Hassid’s entrancing 1940 rendering with Gerald Moore? Probably.)
Elsewhere, Black Box’s programme very usefully plugs a number of gaps in the current Elgar discography, not least the delectable Bizarrerie, Op. 13 No. 2 (companion piece to Mot d’amour), Virelai (a particularly fetching morsel from 1884) and a cheeky Gavotte from the following year. The winsome In Hammersbach will be more familiar as the second of the Three Bavarian Dances (though it actually began life as the third of six part-songs that went to make up the 1895 Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands). Eagle-eyed enthusiasts will also have spotted two world-premiere recordings in the contents listed above: it was left to violinist W. H. Reed to complete the Etude-Caprice that Elgar first sketched as long ago as 1877 (the composer handed his dear friend the unfinished manuscript in 1918), while the ferocious difficulty of the five solo Etudes characteristiques of 1878 has long put off any potential champions on disc (and Bisengaliev rises to the challenge with fearless aplomb).
Piano tone seems a touch metallic at the outset (and Bisengaliev’s occasional sniffing may prove distracting to some listeners), but the ear soon adjusts, and balance within the generous church acoustic is generally excellent. Lovely stuff.'

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