Notes and Editorial Reviews
IN MY OWN VOICE
Kelly Hall-Tomkins (vn); Craig Ketter (pn);
Anna Reinersman (hp)
MSR 1278 (62:49)
Recitativo and Scherzo-Caprice.
Violin Sonata No. 4,
Violin Partita No. 2:
Fantasie in A.
Ethnic Variations on a Theme of Paganini
Kelly Hall-Tomkins plays Kreisler’s tribute to Eugène Ysaÿe, written about a generation before Ysaÿe’s tribute to him (despite the booklet’s assertion to the contrary, which I’ve recently seen in other sources), with a tonal mastery (on, and of, the 1732 Kaston Guarneri del Gesù), a technical command, and a strength of personality that justify the CD’s title. With swooping portamentos, dramatic dynamic shifts (as well as changes in tempo), and crisp articulation, she may not recall either Ysaÿe or Kreisler, but her performance remains worth hearing. David Oistrakh played Suk’s
in a way that made him seem almost to own it. If Hall-Tomkins sounds quirkier, she generates a similarly opulent intensity and cloaks the opening and ending in a similarly gauzy veil. Her reading of Ysaÿe’s Third Sonata, dedicated to George Enescu, interjects her own personality into another piece that Oistrakh used to perform. By contrast, Hall-Tomkins sounds almost eldritch (and almost inaudible) in the opening, rising only later to sonorously dramatic, exotically mysterious statement, taking quite a few steps beyond Oistrakh’s atmosphere. If this isn’t quite Tim Burton, it isn’t Frank Capra, either. But it’s certainly interesting. Even moderately careful listeners will notice what could be sound from a passing vehicle from 5:48 to 5:52 in the Sonata—but otherwise, the engineers have served the soloist and other instrumentalists well, allowing just enough reverberation when the violinist is playing alone, but never so much as to obliterate detail.
At 15:32, Hall-Tomkins’s Chaconne clocks in as one of the longer performances of the work (compare Szigeti’s deliberate reading from his 1955 complete recording of the sonatas and partitas, reissued on Vanguard 8021, at 15:59, with Heifetz’s comparatively greased lightening—12:53—in his complete set from 1955). That reason for the timing appears in the first variations, which she takes very deliberately, attempting to wring meaning from each group of notes. Those who prefer versions of the Chaconne that simply allow the music to unfold (as in a performance by Herwig Zack, Avie 2155, which, not coincidentally, lasts only 13:28) may find this one somewhat too closely focused on detail, though there’s plenty of it to observe—and the variations lead to and build upon each other in a coherent way. Hall-Tomkins manages, at her more relaxed pace, to reveal a great deal of the work’s splendor; and an occasional roughness of tone hardly detracts from her vision.
Hall-Tomkins reveals a different side, by turns piquant and suggestive, in Saint-Saëns’s Fantasie for violin and harp with Anna Reinersman. Despite Louis Spohr’s devotion to the combination of instruments (his wife, Dorette Scheidler, played the harp with him), later violinists have taken up neither the combination nor its slender literature. That’s a shame, because, as the duo reveals, Saint-Saëns’s piece, and Hall-Tomkins’s performance of it, demonstrates its timbral and general musical potential.
William Grant Still’s “Summerland,” arranged from a piano piece by violinist Louis Kaufman and his pianist wife, Annette (an old issue of
Violins and Violinists
from the mid 1940s noted Kaufman’s championship of Still’s works), serves as a sort of transition to David Baker’s explicitly ethnic variations on Paganini’s 24th Caprice. This set updates the familiar theme—here in a rich setting reminiscent of those by Karol Szymanowski of three of Paganini’s caprices—through nine entertaining variations with titles like “Bebop,” “Funky Groove,” “Calypso,” and “Heavy Rhythm and Blues”—each of them separately tracked. Craig Ketter provides unobtrusively sympathetic support in this piece, as well as those by Suk and Baker. Taken as a whole, the recital represents a significant achievement in stylistic adaptability, although many might prefer other versions of Bach’s and Ysaÿe’s solo works. Recommended.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Liebesleid by Fritz Kreisler
Kelly Hall-Tompkins (Violin)
Three Visions: no 2, Summerland by William Grant Still
Craig Ketter (Piano),
Kelly Hall-Tompkins (Violin)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1936; USA
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