Violin Virtuoso

Author: 
Edward Greenfield

Violin Virtuoso

  • (21) Hungarian Dances, No. 17 in F sharp minor
  • Danzas españolas, Playera
  • (La) Capricieuse
  • (48) Songs without Words, No. 1, Andante espressivo in G
  • Capriccio-Valse
  • Deep River
  • Sicilienne
  • Hora Staccato
  • (6) Songs, No. 3, Daisies (wds. Severianin)
  • (12) Songs, No. 5, Lilacs (wds. Beketova)
  • (Der) Opernball, 'Opera Ball', Midnight Bells
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Ballet in D minor (Dance of the Blessed Spirits): (flute solo)
  • (The) Love for Three Oranges, March
  • Souvenir d'un lieu cher, No. 3, Mélodie in E flat
  • Porgy and Bess, Summertime
  • Porgy and Bess, Bess, you is my woman now
  • Porgy and Bess, It ain't necessarily so
  • Etudes d'ondes
  • (21) Hungarian Dances, No. 17 in F sharp minor
  • Danzas españolas, Playera
  • (La) Capricieuse
  • (48) Songs without Words, No. 1, Andante espressivo in G
  • Capriccio-Valse
  • Deep River
  • Sicilienne
  • Hora Staccato
  • (6) Songs, No. 3, Daisies (wds. Severianin)
  • (12) Songs, No. 5, Lilacs (wds. Beketova)
  • (Der) Opernball, 'Opera Ball', Midnight Bells
  • Orfeo ed Euridice, Ballet in D minor (Dance of the Blessed Spirits): (flute solo)
  • (The) Love for Three Oranges, March
  • Souvenir d'un lieu cher, No. 3, Mélodie in E flat
  • Porgy and Bess, Summertime
  • Porgy and Bess, Bess, you is my woman now
  • Porgy and Bess, It ain't necessarily so
  • Etudes d'ondes

''Sure-way'', says the ASV publicity, helpfully guiding us over the pronunciation of this young Chinese virtuoso's name. It could hardly be a happier transliteration, when Xue-Wei on record confirms the qualities that, as well as winning him first prize in the Carl Flesch Award among much else, have launched him on a formidable concert career. I am not surprised at IM's enthusiasm for his debut concert disc of Bruch and Saint-Saens in February. This is an unashamedly old-fashioned collection, played with a romantic fervour to have you readily accepting the very nineteenth-century way of treating Gluck's Blessed Spirits or the Paradis Sicilienne. It is old-fashioned too in giving minimum information on the disc, and I suggest that those purchasing the record should promptly copy down the heading above, if they want to be able to identify precisely which Hungarian Dance of Brahms this is, or which Melodie of Tchaikovsky. The only detail I would add is that the piece called ''Midnight bells'' from Heuberger's Opera Ball is in fact an arrangement of the best-loved melody from that operetta, ''Im chambre separee'', one of the plums from Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's classic EMI operetta disc.
The assurance, flair and warmth of expression are clear enough throughout the 18 items. What is disappointing is that the engineering is so unhelpful. Maybe with the example of Itzhak Perlman in mind, Xue-Wei is presented in close-up, but where the Perlman sound is made to flow like cream, the microphones too often catch a whiskery edge on Xue-Wei's, exaggerating even the slightest unevenness of tone. One knows how beautiful this would sound in a helpful acoustic, with the violinist's gradations down to a half-tone naturally brought out. Here the delicacy of his treatment of the Rachmaninov for example is seriously undermined by the balance. The recording of the piano does not help at all, bass-heavy and plummy to make oompah accompaniments sound even stodgier than they need, bringing little feeling of co-ordination with the violin. Yet even with limited top, the upper register is often clattery. I would not have recognized that this was recorded in Henry Wood Hall. Despite that, many of the numbers come over brilliantly, most of all the fast bravura pieces like Dinicu's Hora staccato and the March from Prokofiev's Love for three oranges. But violin playing like this deserves more cossetting in the presentation.'

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