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Charlie Siem Plays Virtuoso Violin Works

Charlie Siem Plays Virtuoso Violin Works / Var
Release Date: 01/25/2011 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 80471   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Fritz KreislerAntonio BazziniNiccolò PaganiniFranz Waxman,   ... 
Performer:  Charlie SiemCaroline Jaya-Ratnam
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 48 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



CHARLIE SIEM Charlie Siem (vn); Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (pn) WARNER 2564 67804-7 (47:57)


Music by WIENIAWSKI, KREISLER, BAZZINI, PAGANINI, WAXMAN, SARASATE, and PONCE


At 47:57, Charlie Siem’s recital of popular violinists’ chestnuts seems rather slender, especially since the program lists the last track, Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita , in Jascha Heifetz’s popular arrangement (3:09), as a “bonus.” Without the Read more bonus, by my calculations, the program proper would last only 44:48. Doesn’t this kid know any more music?


Reservations about the program’s length aside, Charlie Siem plays brilliantly in the brief opening piece, the sparkling fourth of Henri Wieniawski’s Étude-Caprices , op. 18, which, in Fritz Kreisler’s arrangement, as it’s played here, has become a staple of the encore repertoire. Siem changes gears rapidly for Kreisler’s own lush—nearly decadent— Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta , an atmospheric work more than eight minutes in length that apparently not every violinist considers core Kreisler repertoire. Kreisler himself recorded it in 1946 at the age of 71 (with orchestra, as he wrote it), and Leonidas Kavakos, among others, programmed it on his CD tribute to the older violinist. Siem, who studied with Shlomo Mintz, doesn’t yet play Kreisler with Mintz’s warmth and suppleness. And in the Fantasietta , he doesn’t exude the kind of nostalgic fragrance that permeated Kavakos’s lush rendition.


Siem refers to Paganini as providing the violinist’s technical arsenal, but before he arrives at Paganini, he passes through a showpiece written by one of Paganini’s epigones, Antonio Bazzini. Jascha Heifetz recorded the composer’s most popular miniature, La Ronde des lutins (Goblins’ Round Dance), among his first 78s (one-sided, this one) in 1917. Siem takes it almost as fast and adds slight pauses to heighten its dramatic effect. As Heifetz did in his earlier recording (though not in the later one from 1937) he makes slight cuts (perhaps rightly so—this little streak of quicksilver can grow tedious even at a rapid-fire tempo). Overall, he makes a more phosphorescent effect than did, say, Gil Shaham, who offered the piece as part of his Halloween disc, Devil’s Dance (Deutsche Grammophon 289 463 483-2, Fanfare 24:3).


Then Siem gets to Paganini: the unaccompanied Variations on “Nel cor più non mi sento.” Here, his technique, however flashing, meets several formidable challenges, such as the opening’s left-hand pizzicatos, which he doesn’t quite get, like ducks, into an even row. Nevertheless, he makes strong contrasts between ethereally stratospheric staccatos, stentorian outbursts in chords, haunting tremolos, and off-the-string arpeggios (the same cast of characters appears in most of the sets of variations; later, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst and Wieniawski would add new elements in theirs). The First Caprice, which follows, consists of such off-the-string arpeggios (these usually bring the sets of variations to a close, but they lead off in the caprices). Here Siem sounds crisp, though not so crisp as did the young Michael Rabin or the older Ruggiero Ricci (say, the set on LP, London CM 9244). The Fifth Caprice, which Nathan Milstein used as a calling card, belonged in a way to Ricci as well, who played its middle section as marked, with three notes in off-the-string staccato followed by one alone—a pattern that’s difficult in isolation and nearly impossible to bring off well when repeated seemingly ad infinitum at a preternaturally fast tempo such as the one Ricci adopted. Siem plays very rapidly indeed (spiccato, or in single bows, as everyone else does), but he lacks Rabin’s bite.


Heifetz championed Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy , a composition written for the movie Humoresque (although Isaac Stern played it on the soundtrack, the studio reputedly had first negotiated with Heifetz to supply the solos). Isaac Stern, of course, recorded the Fantasy , as did Leonid Kogan (in a video performance that’s both dazzling and eloquent). I’ve been told that Russian teachers now prefer Waxman’s version to Pablo Sarasate’s formerly more frequently encountered one (and surely to Jenö Hubay’s). Siem can be quite dashing, although he can also on occasion allow a double-stopped sequence to misfire or a set of broken chords to sound a bit brittle (this word seems to crop up as I consider adjectives to describe the effect of so many technical devices in Siem’s hands). Heifetz also frequently played Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs). Siem sounds more mannered, swooping and gesticulating (in the music, anyway) in a way that even violinists of the “golden era” (whenever that was) might have found disturbing. At the same time, he makes less fuss than they might have over the kind of shifts in which one finger elegantly takes the place of another on one note. The program ends with a performance of Estrellita , verbally introduced by Siem, that’s ardent and authoritative in Heifetz’s manner if not in his style.


Caroline Jaya-Ratnam accompanies Siem sympathetically, and the recorded sound balances the two performers more as equals than as violinist and accompanist. Recommended? Well, it’s short, it’s bright, and it’s entertaining. Siem deserves credit for daring to release such a recording—one, that is, that includes no dissonant contemporary explorations, no sonatas, and no Bach. If you want to hear this kind of program played unselfconsciously (except, perhaps, for the inclusion of the verbal introduction) by a promising young performer, you could easily do much worse. Very much worse, very easily.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1.
Caprice for Violin and Piano in A minor [after Wieniawski] by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 1 Minutes 26 Secs. 
2.
Viennese Rapsodic Fantasietta by Fritz Kreisler
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1942; Austria 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 8 Minutes 18 Secs. 
3.
La ronde des lutins, Op. 25 by Antonio Bazzini
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1847; Italy 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 5 Minutes 9 Secs. 
4.
Introduction and Variations on Paisiello's "Nel cor più non mi sento", Op. 38 by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: ?1820 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 7 Minutes 38 Secs. 
5.
Caprices (24) for Violin solo, Op. 1: no 1 in E major by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1805; Italy 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
6.
Caprices (24) for Violin solo, Op. 1: no 5 in A minor by Niccolò Paganini
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1805; Italy 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 2 Minutes 25 Secs. 
7.
Carmen Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra by Franz Waxman
Performer:  Charlie Siem (Violin), Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 10 Minutes 46 Secs. 
8.
Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 by Pablo de Sarasate
Performer:  Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano), Charlie Siem (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1878 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 7 Minutes 14 Secs. 
9.
Estrellita by Manuel Ponce
Performer:  Caroline Jaya-Ratnam (Piano), Charlie Siem (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; Mexico 
Venue:  Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouth 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Caprice in A minor: Wieniawski arr Kreisler : Caprice in A minor
Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta: Kreisler: Viennese Rhapsodic Fantasietta
Scherzo fantastique Op.25, 'La ronde des lutins': Bazzini : Scherzo fantastique Op.25, 'La ronde des lutins'
Introduction and Variations on 'Nel cor più non mi sento' Op.38: Paganini : Introduction and Variations on 'Nel cor più non mi sento' Op.38
24 Caprices Op.1 : No.1 in E major: Paganini : 24 Caprices Op.1 : No.1 in E major
24 Caprices Op.1 : No.5 in A minor: Paganini : 24 Caprices Op.1 : No.5 in A minor
Carmen Fantasie: Waxman : Carmen Fantasie
Zigeunerweisen Op.20: Sarasate : Zigeunerweisen Op.20
Bonus live track : Estrellita [Introduced by Charlie Siem]: Ponce / Arr Heifetz : Estrellita [Introduced by Charlie Siem]

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