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Going Solo / Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio

Telemann / Piazzolla / Porter / Santambrogio
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1397   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henri VieuxtempsFritz KreislerAugusta Read ThomasJames Winn,   ... 
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Goodness, what a fascinating program: Telemann, Ysaÿe, Porter, Schulhoff, a premiere. And the playing is the work of a consummate professional.

Disclaimer: Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio is, in a sense, my home team’s violinist. During my years in San Antonio, Texas, she was the excellent concertmaster of the local orchestra and made regular solo appearances; she also arranged a first-class chamber festival in central Texas, the Cactus Pear Music Festival, which brought in talented performers from around the world for intrepid, inventively themed programs. Once the Cactus Pear players put on Hermann Goetz’ piano quintet, before which Sant’Ambrogio asked, “Has anyone here heard of Hermann Goetz?” One hand went up, mine.
Read more Unfortunately her time with the orchestra recently ended when a political squabble resulted in the departure of the talented music director and Sant’Ambrogio left - we are given to understand - in protest. This is the unspoken backstory to the title of her new violin recital: “Going Solo”.

Sant’Ambrogio is now a professor of violin at the University of Nevada, Reno, and this disc shows that her tastes are as adventurous as they were back at Cactus Pear. Here we have a recital for solo violin, no accompaniment, which is punctuated with works for viola and which traces a path from Telemann to Quincy Porter, two living composers, and Piazzolla tangos. Programs don’t get much more varied or interesting than this.

We start with Telemann’s Fantasia No. 7, in E flat, part of his series of twelve solo violin works. None of them appear very often, except in a handful of complete recitals by the likes of Rachel Podger and Augustin Hadelich. Sant’Ambrogio’s outing here is fresh and eloquently simple. Then it’s forward in time to Henri Vieuxtemps for a viola interlude — a capriccio, played with great passion. The rest of the album is squarely in the 20 th and 21 st centuries.

Eugene Ysaÿe’s sonata No. 4, for Kreisler, is brought off with aplomb but not too much. There isn’t the most complete technical control here - the fiendish second half of the first movement gets a bit dicey - but the sarabande is very well done and this music, some violinists remain convinced, was not really written for mortal humans anyway. Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo Caprice goes much better. It will be a wake-up to anyone who thinks that Kreisler is all honey-sweet and wildflowers. Indeed, it sounds a lot like Ysaÿe, to whom it is dedicated; the pairing is inspired.

Then we step forward to 2006 and the Incantation for solo viola by Augusta Read Thomas. A rather dark incantation it is, sternly but not at all forbiddingly modern in its tone; if you’ve heard the viola music of Lillian Fuchs, think of that. James Winn’s Pibroch (2008) initially appears to be of the same world, but it is an evocation of the Scottish bagpipes, commissioned for and breathtakingly dispatched by Sant’Ambrogio.

Three more items round out the program: Erwin Schulhoff’s solo violin sonata, Quincy Porter’s Suite for Viola Alone, and a clutch of Piazzolla’s tango etudes. The Schulhoff might be the most interesting thing on the disc, three dances and short, spiky moments musicaux around a very dark andante. It gets a reading to match, by turns bemused and enraged and just barely level-headed. Sant’Ambrogio rises to the technical challenges, too. The Porter for viola was written at about the same time and is a marvelous work. The second movement rather anticipates a lot of minimalist tricks and the last seconds of the finale are a clever harmonic turn to the major key, impeccably executed. I didn’t know it, but she’s an exceptionally fine violist in full command of the instrument. The Piazzolla makes a good encore, and some of the tunes from these etudes are recognizable from the Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and other more popular works.

In sum, a truly fine program of odds, ends, and overlooked gems, played if not with the effortlessness of a Kremer (in Ysaÿe) or the unflappable voicing of a Perlman, at least with great skill, charisma, and emotional commitment. The recorded sound will do very nicely, not too close and not too recessed. Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio’s biography, self-written in the first-person, will be either genuine or cutesy depending on one’s taste. There’s nothing cutesy about her viola or violin playing, though: that’s the work of a consummate professional.

If the program she has assembled for this disc intrigues you, give it a listen. Sometimes going solo is the right idea after all.

-- Brian Reinhart, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Capriccio for Viola solo, Op. 55 no 9 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Viola)
Period: Romantic 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs. 
2.
Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice for Violin solo, Op. 6 by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1911; Austria 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 5 Minutes 2 Secs. 
3.
Incantation by Augusta Read Thomas
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 4 Minutes 45 Secs. 
4.
Pibroch, for solo violin by James Winn
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2008 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 5 Minutes 32 Secs. 
5.
Sonata for Solo Violin by Erwin Schulhoff
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Written: 1927 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 11 Minutes 43 Secs. 
6.
Suite for Viola solo by Quincy Porter
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Viola)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; USA 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 7 Minutes 2 Secs. 
7.
Etudes Tanguistiques (6) for Flute solo: no 4, Lento. Meditativo by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1987 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 3 Minutes 46 Secs. 
8.
Etudes Tanguistiques (6) for Flute solo: no 5, Allegro by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1987 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 2 Minutes 10 Secs. 
9.
Etudes Tanguistiques (6) for Flute solo: no 3, Molto marcato e energico by Astor Piazzolla
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1987 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 3 Minutes 40 Secs. 
10.
Sonatas (6) for Violin solo, Op. 27: no 4 in E minor by Eugène Ysaÿe
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1924; Belgium 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 12 Minutes 38 Secs. 
11.
Fantasias (12) for Violin solo: no 7 in E flat major, TV 40 no 20/P 35 no 7 by Georg Philipp Telemann
Performer:  Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1735; Hamburg, Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2010/10/2010 
Venue:  Green Music Center, Sonoma State Univers 
Length: 8 Minutes 53 Secs. 

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