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Bruch, Paganini: Violin Concertos / Alexandra Soumm, Georg Mark

Release Date: 12/09/2008 
Label:  Claves   Catalog #: 2808   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Max BruchNiccolň Paganini
Performer:  Alexandra Soumm
Conductor:  Georg Mark
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 2 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BRUCH Violin Concerto No. 1. PAGANINI Violin Concerto No. 1 Alexandra Soumm (vn); Georg Mark, cond; Rheinland-Pfalz St PO CLAVES 2808 (61:43)

Alexandra Soumm’s début on Claves brings together two war-horses that highlight her tonal and technical capabilities—and, as it turns out, her musical ones as well. Following in the grand Romantic tradition, the not yet 20-year-old Soumm plays Bruch’s masterpiece with warmth and authority, drawing Read more from the 1735 Omobono Stradivari on which she plays the program a rich, though often hoarse sound in the lower registers and a somewhat attenuated one in the upper. The engineers have caught her close up, and the strength of her musical personality shines through, especially in the first movement with its recitative-like passages and impassioned rhetoric. She’s intimate and compelling in the slow movement and appropriately brilliant in the finale. In all, her playing is more reminiscent of Oistrakh’s in its rich, buttery opulence, than of Heifetz’s or Francescatti’s tauter approach to the Concerto (which, being so well written a violinistic vehicle, admits of a number of equally fruitful interpretive manners). But Soumm is not Oistrakh, nor does she sound like Oistrakh: she’s a bit harder edged and seems to strain a bit harder to achieve her enveloping warmth.

That warmth appears as well in Paganini’s Concerto, which she plays more lushly than did violinists like Francescatti, Rabin, Ricci, and Menuhin, who made their mark in it (though not on it). And she’s certainly more cautious than Alexander Markov (Apex has reissued his set as 2564 69987), although she plays the flying staccatos in the first movement’s middle section with thrilling speed and evenness (and the orchestral strings deliver their tuttis with snap, strutting aplomb). How did Paganini himself play this work? Did he slow down, as Soumm does, to impart to singing sections (in both the first and, especially, the second, movement) the kind of luxuriant tonal luster she brings? Did the quality of his tone compare to hers, or did it sound wiry? Did he even play things as written? Here’s another question: if Soumm (and even the likes of Francescatti, Ricci, and Rabin) were to be transplanted into Paganini’s time, would they attract the greatest composers of the era to their concerts, and even reduce some of them to tears of sensibility? Would their technical command, perhaps—though it might be heresy to suggest it—even greater than Paganini’s, be enough? Certainly Soumm’s command in the first movement’s cadenza proves equal to almost any I’ve heard. And she’s dramatic—almost melodramatic, although not in a derogatory sense—in the second movement, and bright if not sparkling in the finale (and her double harmonics in the movement’s middle section go without a hitch). Nevertheless, an occasional note protrudes from the textures, like a blackbird’s foot from the nursery-rhyme pie.

So here’s a promising debut: tone and technique married in a communicative musical personality that displays most welcome signs of individuality. It’s perhaps more on account of the last element, though, than of the aforementioned ones that her program deserves to be so strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch
Performer:  Alexandra Soumm (Violin)
Conductor:  Georg Mark
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1868; Germany 
Concerto for Violin no 1 in D major, Op. 6 by Niccolň Paganini
Performer:  Alexandra Soumm (Violin)
Conductor:  Georg Mark
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1817 

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