Notes and Editorial Reviews
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (vn); Marin Alsop, cond; Colorado SO
NSS (57:46) Live: Denver 11/2004
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (the NSS of the NSS Music label) remarks in her notes that she considered the ?Tchaik? a concerto for very young, energetic violinists and feared that the window of opportunity might almost have closed for her. But Heifetz made the first of his definitive recordings when he was
in his thirties; Elman, too, was also older when he first recorded it; not to mention Milstein and Oistrakh, who remained impressive in the work later in life. In fact, given its discography, it?s hard to imagine her having been seduced by the cult of youth. In fact, could she herself have given so nuanced an account earlier in her career? There?s plenty of individuality in her playing?like her or not, she remains who she is?and plenty of snap, crackle, and pop. The first movement?s final pages accelerate to a breathtaking tempo at which angels might fear to fly?and that should waken sleepers who?ve been lulled by innumerable performances of the piece; and the cadenza?s set off by moments of sharp virtuosity and bold rhetoric. Imagine how a group like Europa Galante might approach Tchaikovsky and you?ll come close. But Salerno-Sonnenberg?s performance never really flouts tradition, it merely tweaks it in a bright and interesting way. The live recording includes applause and tuning after the first movement; those listeners may have been responsible for the wholeness this performance communicates: not a patchwork of takes, no matter how compatible, but an integral reading with momentary inspirations and moments of repose. Because of her attention to detail, Salerno-Sonnenberg?s version may seem at first fussier than the high-powered but more straightforward accounts by the Heifetz, Elman, Milstein, and Oistrakh tetrarchy; but it doesn?t seem that her exciting forays into faster tempos or explosive accentuations depend on other, more straightforward readings for their meaning?not mere second-hand thrills, they grow out of the music itself and, as mentioned, perhaps out of the live performance as well. And the soloist?s individuality emerges not only in the brilliant passagework, but in lyrical moments (such as the finale?s) as well. Marin Alsop and the orchestra conspire in creating this excitement; the engineers have caught Salerno-Sonnenberg up close (rich in the lower registers and brilliant in the upper ones); but they?ve preserved, as well, a respectful balance with the orchestra and a sense of the stage?s depth.
Clarice Assad, according to her own notes, wrote her Concerto for Salerno-Sonnenberg, as a thesis for her master?s degree in composition, at the violinist?s suggestion. In the process, she took notes on conversations with her soloist, working out ideas about the piece?s form and substance. It?s in three movements and in D Major, two concessions to tradition that a listener can glean simply from reading the notes; but it also assigns to the violin a style of figuration that violinists have long been accustomed to play and that showcases the instrument?s technical, and especially, its tonal, characteristics. The first movement?s atmospheric, sometimes searching, as in Castelnuovo-Tedesco?s
or Bloch?s Concerto, and sometimes cinematic, as in Korngold?s Concerto?as at the orchestra?s reentrance after the cadenza. While the piece may not be so stylistically homogeneous as Samuel Barber?s Concerto (at least until that work?s last movement), it may come as something of a surprise that it could again be written in an academic environment. The slow movement?s moments of eloquent lyricism justify its title, Andante espressivo. The finale, composed first, according to Assad, and based on a subject for a prelude and fugue, features, like the other movements, flourishes that could conceal themselves undetected in Khachaturian?s Concerto, although, on the whole, the movement?s expressive journey has set itself on quite another path.
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg?s notes suggest the appropriateness of combining the old with the new, but given the freshness of her approach to the ?Tchaik,? the recording really combines the seemingly new with the spanking new. Recommended primarily to those willing to adjust their pacemakers and experience the Tchaikovsky Concerto almost anew, as well as to those who believe that academic composers have abandoned audiences.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 35 by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (Violin)
Written: 1878; Russia
Date of Recording: 11/2004
Venue: Live Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver
Concerto for Violin in D major by Clarice Assad
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
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