Judging from this wonderfully varied and well-programmed recital, the 19th century operatic fantasy for violin is as alive and well in the 21st century as it was in the 20th. It's true that many works in this genre exist mainly to show off one's virtuosity, yet violinist Livia Sohn clearly has brains to go with her dazzling fingers. Take Stefan Frenkel's Threepenny Opera transcription, for example. In addition to Sohn's effortless negotiation of the Useless Song's pizzicato arpeggios, upon each repetition she inflects Mack the Knife's simple repeating melody with subtle variations that never sound different for the sake of being different. She imparts heartfelt musicality and dignity to Raff'sRead more amusingly vapid Lohengrin transcription, and while she insouciantly tosses off Hubay's fluffy rewrite of Carmen's greatest hits, her phrasing always is informed by a vocal sensibility.
The range of color and dynamic shading she brings to Stephen Prutsman's 15-minute Der Rosenkavalier fantasia makes the violin writing seem more varied in mood and texture than it often is. Interestingly, the haunting vocal line and gorgeous orchestration of Desde mi ventana from Osvaldo Golijov's Ainadamar turns somewhat static when transcribed for violin and piano (actually two violins: Geoff Nuttall enters about two-thirds of the way into the work), although it's worth hearing for Sohn's slow, sustained lower-register work. In addition to providing colorful and sharply characterized accompaniments, Benjamin Loeb proves an effective transcriber in his own right as he skillfully transforms Bizet's famous Pearl Fishers duet for violin and viola. Naxos' excellent engineering and booklet notes seal my recommendation with a solid "10/10".
Ainadamar: Desde mi ventanaby Osvaldo Golijov Performer:
Livia Sohn (Violin),
Benjamin Loeb (Piano),
Geoff Nuttall (Violin)
Period: 20th Century Written: USA Length: 7 Minutes 41 Secs. Notes: Composition written: USA (By 2003). Composition revised: By 2005.