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Niccolo Paganini: Violin Concertos No 1 & 2 / Jan Willem De Vriend, Netherlands Symphony Orchestra, Et Al

Release Date: 11/10/2009 
Label:  Challenge   Catalog #: 72343   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Niccolò PaganiniGioachino Rossini
Performer:  Rudolf Koelman
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.


PAGANINI Violin Concertos: No. 1 in D; 1 1 No. 2 in b. 22 ROSSINI Matilde di Shabran: Overture 1 Rudolf Koelman (vn); Jan Willem de Vriend, Read more cond; Netherlands Symphony Orchestra CHALLENGE 72343 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 71:50) Live: Muziekcentrum Enschede 9/2-5/2008; 1 11/5-8/2008 22

Boris Kehrmann’s notes make the connection, intuitively obvious, perhaps, from the similarities of their melodies and harmonies, between Niccolò Paganini’s Concertos and Gioacchino Rossini’s operas—particularly Matilde di Shabran , the genesis of which Paganini witnessed firsthand, often playing its melodies on the violin, conducting the premiere and, due to a horn musician’s illness, playing the horn parts on the viola.

Rudolf Koelman, former concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, plays the First Concerto more in the manner of a soloist than of a section player. His technique sparkles in the first movement; but that alone doesn’t set him apart from technicians like Ricci and Rabin who have imprinted their aggressive personalities on the work’s pages. To his credit, though, Koelman’s exceptionally gracious in the melodic passages—and the recitative-like ones as well, taking time to create a vocal operatic impression. He may not sound so surreal as does Alexander Markov (reissued on Apex 69987, 32:1), but for audiences accustomed to readings swimming more in the center of the main stream, his performances, by no means tame, should still pack a wallop. He plays Carl Flesch’s cadenza rather than the more usual one by Emile Sauret. Flesch’s cadenza incorporates plentiful harmonics, most of which Koelman plays with assurance (how did Paganini play them on gut strings?). In the second movement, Koelman recreates the melodrama that must have been the centerpiece of Paganini’s own performance; and his crisp ricochets sprinkle glitter throughout the last movement.

The program places Rossini’s overture to Matilde di Shabran between the two Concertos. Kehrmann points out that Rossini, short on time, borrowed the overture from another opera, reorchestrating sections of it. In de Vriend’s vigorous performance, followed immediately by the dramatic opening of Paganini’s Second Concerto, it should be hard for a listener not to recognize at once the similarities of the styles and their reliances on formulas—but also their highly personal manipulations of those formulaic elements to achieve a sense of freshness within more or less predictable frameworks. And the formulas do vary—Paganini didn’t rely, for example, on increasingly louder repetitions to build excitement. Still, the opening of the Second Concerto achieves a sense of mystery and drama of its own. In the first movement, Koelman plays his (rather brief and somewhat sensationalistic) cadenza. In the second, de Vriend and the Orchestra provide a dramatic foil for their soloist’s histrionic declamations. The famous finale, La Campanella , has often been played as an independent piece (Paganini used it as the finale of his choral fantasy with violin, Le Couvent du Mont St. Bernard ); while it has become familiar in Liszt’s arrangement for piano, its dazzling effects, so well suited to the original instrument, still create a stunning impression in tonally so pure and technically so assured performances like this one.

Challenge’s recorded sound, even in the stereo version in which I listened to the program, possesses both depth and definition; and that’s necessary, because de Vriend and the Orchestra play Paganini’s orchestral tuttis for all they’re worth. Collectors won’t go wrong with Koelman’s readings; yet, with so many other versions available, more general listeners may prefer historic versions by Francescatti, Menuhin, Kogan, or Ricci of the First Concerto or by Ricci of the Second. Those seeking the electrifying sensation of listening to the composer himself might turn to Markov’s performances for a simulacrum. Recommended, therefore, most strongly to its special audiences.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Mathilda di Shabran: Overture by Gioachino Rossini
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1821; Italy 
Length: 9 Minutes 54 Secs. 
Concerto for Violin no 1 in D major, Op. 6 by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Rudolf Koelman (Violin)
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1817 
Concerto for Violin no 2 in B minor, Op. 7 "La Campanella" by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Rudolf Koelman (Violin)
Conductor:  Jan Willem de Vriend
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Netherlands Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1826 

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