VIEUXTEMPS Works for Solo Violin
Vieuxtemps was among the foremost of the post-Paganini generation of violinist-composers. That his music should be so little heard and so much undervalued may be a hangover from the days of German hegemony, but there is surely no excuse for it to be ignored today. It is skilfully written, highly inventive and melodic and – as strongly demonstrated on this disc – combines all the tricks that Paganini ever invented with the classical restraint of de Bériot, Vieuxtemps’s teacher.
These three groups of six études for solo violin merit a place in any recital programme, while ‘La chasse’ from the Three Salon Pieces, Op 32, or almost any single étude from the above would make a worthy encore: like all the best études, they don’t sound like études. I can only guess that more violinists don’t play, for example, Op 48 No 6 (‘Erzählung’) or No 7 (‘Qual’) because they haven’t bothered to investigate Vieuxtemps or have been told by their teachers not to bother.
The German Reto Kuppel, a Dorothy DeLay/Juillard alumnus, is superbly attuned to the genre, as attested by his earlier Naxos disc of solo studies and caprices by Ferdinand David. All the necessary brilliance and incisive attack is there as you would expect, but also the same breadth and power of tone which was, from all accounts, part of what made Vieuxtemps’s own playing so remarkable.
That said, even this devoted admirer found 74 minutes and 10 seconds of unaccompanied Vieuxtemps too much to take at a sitting (as he would for Bach, Paganini or Ysaÿe). And he would have been even more pleasantly surprised by these discoveries had he come across them nestling between, say, the Ballade et Polonaise, Op 38, or Fantasia appassionata, Op 35. Still, we must be grateful to Naxos for giving us, despite their limited market appeal, the opportunity of hearing these buried treasures.