A delightful collection of lightish French works for violin and orchestra, which tickle the ear and gladden the soul. Lightish to listen to, but a virtuoso minefield for the poor soloist, for behind the very attractive façade is a veritable smörgåsbord of technical difficulties. Virtuosi of Shlomo Mintz’s calibre take these things in their stride and make it all sound like child’s play. I am sure that sometimes they wish it were!
Symphonie Espagnole is given in the five movement version, and I feel that it works better this way, for the work is fuller and more attractive. From a performance point of view Mintz is in his element here, obviously enjoying the music and having aRead more good time playing it. The problem, for me, is that Mehta’s accompaniment is too heavy for this summer sunshine work. It’s too over-played with too little humour and not enough smiles. Although a virtuoso work, this is also a
jeu d’esprit, and, as such, requires the lightest of touches. Oddly, both Mintz’s and Mehta’s views of the piece work fairly well together.
Fifth Concerto by Henri Vieuxtemps was once a real old war-horse, but I haven’t heard it in years. It may have fallen out of the concert repertoire but there are still 17 different recordings of the piece by 16 different violinists ranging from Lola Bobesco to Jascha Heifetz. Mintz and Mehta are at one here and give a pleasant performance of a pleasant work. There are no highs and lows in this piece, just a nice walk in the musical countryside with some flashy passages and thoughtful melodic material. It might not set the blood boiling but it will give pleasure.
Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso has always been a favourite amongst violinists, and it’s easy to understand why this is. It has two contrasting sections which allow the soloist to meditate and sparkle. There’s not much for the orchestra to do, but that isn’t important for we want to hear the fiddle scintillate, and that is what Mintz does here.
– Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International
Mintz plays the piece with fine panache: his treatment of the gorgeous, lilting secondary theme of the first movement is tenderly seductive, while the Scherzo dances with a delicious feathery weightlessness, its lyrical strain enticingly Carmenesque. The habanera rhythms of the Intermezzo are certainly touched with G string voluptuousness but, again, there is an element of restraint, which shows the true artist not overplaying his hand. Mintz understandably lets himself go in the gorgeous theme of the Andante, singing it with a special kind of Hebrew intensity. Then the release comes in the finale, which throws off sparks of all hues like a Catherine wheel.
Mehta, who has produced rather heavy rhythms at the opening of both the first and third movement, begins the Rondo with delicacy, and then lets Mintz carry the piece with his scintillating violinistic coloratura and rich-timbred lyricism. It must be said that one of the reasons that the orchestral tuttis sound a little dark and heavy is the acoustic of the Mann Auditorium, never an ideal recording venue, though here it has no effect on the soloist, who floats clear and free.
The Vieuxtemps concerto brings out the best in both violinist and conductor. It is a comparatively short but very rewarding work in the Paganini mould, and (unlike some of the Paganini concertos) doesn't outstay its welcome. The first movement has a strong, dashing opening and then produces a quite lovely theme, which Mintz 'magics' with a rhapsodic, ruminative quality, playing it with passion and tenderness in turn. When it returns gently (at 4'40") the Paganinian flavour is very striking. A really impressive cadenza takes the place of an orchestral recapitulation and leads to the melting Adagio (based on a theme from Grêtry's opera Lucile—the work was at one time known as the `Gretry Concerto'), very delectable too, as Mintz appreciates. He introduces it with almost ethereal gentleness and (at 2'28") produces a pianissimo reprise to make one catch one's breath. The Allegro con fuoco finale flies past in just over a minute, yet manages to reintroduce the two principal themes of the first movement in the same breath.
All great virtuosos revel in Saint-Saens's Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, and Mehta stands back to let Mintz dazzle us, which he does with much finesse, superb bowing sophistication and entertaining aplomb.
– Gramophone [3/1992, reviewing a previous release of these recordings]
The works on this CD represent some of the finest for the violin to emerge from the French violin tradition -- a tradition that stretches back some four centuries. From Louis XIII's 24 Violins du roi of 1626, through Lully and Leclair in the 18th century, and Rode, Kreutzer, de Beriot, Lalo, Vieuxtemps and Saint-Saens in the 19th.
Lalo's evergreen Symphonie Espagnole reflects his Spanish ancestry, and it is thought that he consulted the great Spanish virtuoso Pablo Sarasate during the composition of the work. It is a clever blend of symphony and concerto, Spanish colour, French effervescence and Germanic structure.
Vieuxtemps was a child prodigy, making his public debut at the age of 11 in 1831, and was compared to Paganini. He produced 7 violin concertos, and nos 4 and 5 have remained in the repertoire to this day. The 5th is innovative in dovetailing movements together -- something Mendelssohn and Bruch would do later in their famous concertos.
Saint-Saëns was another child prodigy, and a pianist of tremendous technique from an early age. He produced 5 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 2 cello concertos and 3 violin concertos and many other concertante works along with many operas a chamber works 'I live in music as a fish lives in water ' he once said. Polished, fluent with a truly memorable gift for a great tune, his Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso was written for the 19-year-old Sarasate in 1863. Read less
Excellent MusicDecember 14, 2013By Terry J. (Lake Forest, CA)See All My Reviews"My first experience with this album was listening to the Saint-Saens Rondo Capriccioso on KUSC, but the surprise on the album was the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole. This fandango between orchestra and violin sounds a lot like Mendelssohn's violin concerto, and the throaty resonance of Mintz's violin makes the performance exceptional."Report Abuse
The atmosphere of a Spring spent on the MediterraNovember 25, 2012By James Kendall (Kentfield, CA)See All My Reviews"Zubin Mehta, and the Israel Philharmonic, both surpass my eligibility to comment. They are gorgeous. Shlomo Mintz is brisk and violin-squeaky in all the right places. Eduard Lalo's Symphony Espagnole in D minor is spirited, yet not trampling. Henri Vieuxtemps I am not familiar with, yet he was relaxedly exhilarating. Camille Saint-Saens Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso Op. 29 reveals Shlomo Mintz on the violin as smoother, more seasoned than Josh Bell; not to decry Josh. This is another of my tranquility of evening-time albums."Report Abuse
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