Notes and Editorial Reviews
Isabella Faust (vn); Marko Letonja, cond; Deutches SO Berlin
HARMONIA MUNDI 901925 (48:00)
Isabella Faust, in whose recording of music for violin by Bartók (Harmonia Mundi 911702, 24:1) I first discerned her “laser-like focus,” has subsequently proved to be a highly charged channeler of the romantic spirit as well (in music by Dvo?ák (Harmonia Mundi 901833, which I reviewed in 28:6);
and her strong minded advocacy of Chausson’s
provides a strong endoskeleton for a work that can seem somewhat languid and amorphous, despite its technically brilliant passages, in less sturdy performances; Marko Letonja and the Deutches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin delineate starker textures in the orchestral part, as well. The recorded sound casts sharp shadows on both orchestral and solo parts, all of which adding an extra shot of adrenaline to an already bracing performance. That’s not to say that her tone on the 1701 Sleeping Beauty Stradivari possesses an unpleasant edge—it doesn’t; but she calls forth the instrument’s strength rather than its lush beauty. For those, therefore, for whom even Oistrakh’s performance of the
seems desultory, Faust’s reading should offer a highly palatable alternative.
Lucie Kayas’s notes identify André Jolivet’s Violin Concerto as the last of his 12 concertos. Apparently Leonid Kogan didn’t feel up to the task of learning it for its premiere in 1973. But Kogan, for whom Jolivet wrote the Concerto, doesn’t seem to haunt its pages, as Heifetz did those of Walton’s Concerto and Oistrakh, Shostakovich’s. Although the work requires the sharp-edged technique that served as Kogan’s (and Heifetz’s) calling card, it serves as a showcase for Faust’s searching musicianship, as well. And, of course, she meets all its considerable challenges, technical and rhetorical, with connatural ease. The Concerto may offer an emotional analog of Mexican Indian spirituality, but its musical language hardly looks backwards, despite numerous rapt, chant-like passages. Its chirping, high-flying sonorities, punctuated by violent interjections, rich in almost pointillistic timbral detail, recall the enchanted world of Szymanowski’s First Concerto, though its harmonic style reaches farther into the void. The slow movement lasts almost a quarter hour and includes a fast middle section; the finale, which opens with orchestral sonorities reminiscent of those of the “catastrophe” section of Berg’s Violin Concerto, reaps a whirlwind. Like Gregory Fulkerson, Isabella Faust seems able to find the Ariadne thread through complex works like these, rendering them continuously intelligible and, on the whole immediately accessible.
The engineers seem to have recessed Faust’s aggressive projection somewhat in the Concerto, although she remains dominant musically. For those who might prefer a less romantic, more analytical reading of Chausson’s
(and it surely responds to that approach as well), Faust should appear to be an almost ideal soloist. And her ability to hold together the disparate elements and colors of Jolivet’s Concerto reveals yet another aspect of her virtuosity. Very strongly recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin by André Jolivet
Isabelle Faust (Violin)
Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: 20th Century
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