WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Vieuxtemps: Fantasia Appassionata, Ballade Et Polonaise / Keylin, Mogrelia

Vieuxtemps / Keylin / Slovak Rso / Mogrelia
Release Date: 05/25/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570974   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Misha Keylin
Conductor:  Andrew Mogrelia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 13 Hours 0 Mins. 

Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  
On sale! $9.99
CD:  $6.99
Low Stock

Notes and Editorial Reviews

VIEUXTEMPS Fantasia appassionata. Ballade et Polonaise. Fantaisie Caprice. Greeting to America Misha Keylin (vn); Andrew Mongrelia, cond; Slovak RSO NAXOS 8.570974 (62:56)

Hector Berlioz once remarked that had Henri Vieuxtemps not been such a brilliant violinist, he would have been acclaimed as a composer; he numbered Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Wagner—and, of course, Berlioz—among the admirers of his concertos. And just as Giovanni Battista Viotti generations earlier had taken full advantage of Haydn’s orchestral Read more palette in his concertos, Vieuxtemps developed the full potential of the romantic orchestra in his tuttis. Despite these accomplishments and the tributes earlier generations paid to them, Vieuxtemps’ concertos have, until about a decade ago, languished, disappearing from the concert hall. Misha Keylin has now added to his complete recordings of the seven concertos a disc bringing together his concerto-like Fantasia appassionata ; his once popular Ballade et Polonaise ; the Fantaisie Caprice from 1840, when Vieuxtemps found himself entering his 20s; and the Greeting to America (Vieuxtemps had earlier composed a set of burlesque variations on Yankee Doodle in 1845 and a Bouquet américain in six pieces, St. Patrick’s Day from which Maud Powell recorded in May 1909); these American pieces (and the Greeting is no exception) have usually been listed among his works for violin and piano. The story goes that the classically oriented Vieuxtemps had to contend in America with the folksier Ole Bull, who delighted audiences in the hinterland with his musical feats while the more refined Vieuxtemps (who had played Beethoven’s concerto at the age of 13, at a time when it wasn’t a hallmark of the artist to do so) appealed more strongly in the urban centers of culture and wrote these barnburners to please—or appease—his more general audiences.

If the Fantasia appassionata , lasting almost a third of an hour, hasn’t achieved the kind of currency once enjoyed by the more popular among Vieuxtemps’s concertos, that’s not due to any lack of musical drama, substance, or style, all three of which characteristics it shares with the Fourth and Fifth concertos, even if it’s not quite so symphonic as the Fourth (which Berlioz described as a symphony with violin obbligato). Misha Keylin has shown that he can endow Vieuxtemps’s music with the technical wizardry and beauty of tone it requires to make a strong effect (his championship of Vieuxtemps recalls that of the young Rabin for Wieniawski’s First Concerto now more than a half-century ago). In his performance of the Fantasia , he invites stylistic and technical comparisons with the Fifth Concerto, also conceived in one movement, and makes its singing passages more deeply affecting than did Gidon Kremer (with Riccardo Chailly and the London Symphony Orchestra, rereleased on Philips 432 513) or Viviane Hagner (Hyperion 67798) and its concluding Saltarella exudes more good-natured joviality than did Hagner’s, holding the listener’s attention to the pyrotechnics by virtue of his crisp articulation and bracing tempo. In the Ballade et Polonaise , itself more than a quarter hour in length, Keylin plays with considerable panache—and, in the few slower passages, with considerable poignancy—against the orchestra’s lush backdrop, making a stunning display with the occasional staccato run or barrage of double-stops, but equally in the soaring cantabile.

The equally long—and even less well known— Fantaisie-Caprice sounds as though it amounts to something more than a simple youthful indiscretion. Its opening tutti, in fact, sounds as majestic in its restrained manner as does the more extended opening tuttis in the First and Fourth concertos. Throughout, the Fantaisie serves up an engaging mixture of the lyrical and high-spirited acrobatics, and neither Keylin nor the orchestra seems to consider this mere theatrical display music, punctuated with moments of affecting pathos, to fall beneath their musical horizon. As did Rabin, Keylin can maintain purity of tone all the way up into the empyrean—an important skill for any violinist who would tackle this challenging composition—and he generates considerable excitement in the final section, with its repeated, accordion-like double-stops.

The Greeting to America combines the Star Spangled Banner with a tune with which the composer had enjoyed success in early visits to the United States: Yankee Doodle , all with a high seriousness that doesn’t sound at all tongue-in-cheek, especially in the midst of the portentous–but never pretentous–and billowing orchestration. When Yankee Doodle appears, it’s backwards, as it had been in his earlier set of variations on the tune, and the variations it undergoes sound very similar to those in the earlier work. Keylin plays these with liquid facility and with a bright sheen in the upper registers, before the final peroration on the National Anthem.

The recorded sound (from 2008 except for the Ballade from 2002) sets the violin in a respectable balance with the orchestra. Keylin generally plays an Antonio Gagliano violin from 1831 but, for the earlier recording of the Ballade , borrowed the 1715 Baron Knoop Stradivari from the Fulton Collection. Aficionados of 19th-century violin music and students of the virtuoso technique upon which it depended should find Keylin’s performances of these works nearly irresistible, though general listeners should be delighted by both Keylin’s plucky advocacy and by the works’ melodic richness and wealth of orchestral detail, which the recorded sound reveals in natural clarity. Recommended, accordingly, to all types of listeners.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham


Following in Paganini's footsteps, Henri Vieuxtemps was a touring violinist who composed showpieces that dazzled audiences and earned the respect of the likes of Schumann and Berlioz. Misha Keylin has recorded Vieuxtemps' Violin Concertos for Naxos and he now turns to four pieces that offer similar virtuoso opportunities.

In the Fantasia appassionata Op. 35 his mastery of the work's challenges is evident, especially in the rollicking finale where he plays with fleet-fingered finesse. Even more impressive is the poetic affection and golden timbre he projects in the slower sections. Similar observations hold true for the other pieces as well.

In the Ballade et Polonaise Op. 38 Keylin makes the most of Vieuxtemps' pensive melodies in the Ballade, and in the Polonaise, announced by the orchestral brass section, he plays with rhythmic lift, the tone ranging from velvety bottom to sweet though not sugary top notes. In the Fantasie Caprice we get more of the same, with impressive double-stop passages for the violin along with a helping of Vieuxtemps' zesty orchestral writing.

The final piece on the program, Greeting to America, may be the one most listeners will enjoy, if only because its quotes from the Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle make it a potential camp hit, though the violin pyrotechnics offer virtuoso kicks on their own. Still, when the orchestra breaks into the national anthem you'll think it's an accidental tape splice from a recording of Madama Butterfly.

There are no masterpieces here, but there is plenty of splendid playing by Keylin, good orchestral support by Andrew Mongrelia and the Slovak radio band, and despite the musical equivalent of empty calories, more than enough to satisfy lovers of Romantic violin music. Incidentally, Naxos anglicizes Henri to Henry on the front and back covers and in the booklet, perhaps in tribute to his touring America. Still, if that's the reason, "Hank" might have been more appropriate.

--Dan Davis, ClassicsToday.com
Read less

Works on This Recording

Fantasia appassionata, Op. 35 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Misha Keylin (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrew Mogrelia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Ballade and Polonaise for Violin and Piano, Op. 38 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Misha Keylin (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrew Mogrelia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Salut à America, Op. 56 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Misha Keylin (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrew Mogrelia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1844 
Fantaisie-caprice, Op. 11 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Misha Keylin (Violin)
Conductor:  Andrew Mogrelia
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bratislava Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title