Notes and Editorial Reviews
Violin Sonata No. 2.
Mintcho Mintchev (vn); Marina Kapitanova (pn)
GEGA 359 (54:34)
About three decades ago, I attended a concert at which Mintcho Mintchev played one of Nicolo Paganini’s violin concertos, and I remember telling everyone I encountered
that that’s the way a violinist should sound—and look. The photo on the back of Gega’s booklet (and even the painting reproduced on the cover) conveys that same unmistakable elegance, including the inwardly arched position of his right wrist and the “Heifetz twist” of his torso; it recalls an evening of unforgettable violinistic élan.
Mintchev plays the Chaconne by Tomasso Antonio Vitali (but as likely by another composer) in a version very similar to the one used by Arthur Grumiaux and Riccardo Castagnone in a recording issued as an LP by Epic, now available on Philips Eloquence 8240,
31:4. The minimal arrangement provides some amelioration of the burden of romantic overlays borne by the frequently heard edition made by Leopold Charlier and Leopold Auer. Mintchev’s performance with pianist Kapitanova displays a similarly elegant tone production and, even if he’s not quite so straightforward as Grumiaux (he bends the tempo more frequently and plays some of the technically difficult passages with greater virtuosic sizzle, while Kapitanova seems more focused on cleanliness of articulation than Castagnone), he follows generally in his footsteps. Those who admired the earlier violinist’s chaste reading should find in Mintchev’s similar, and similarly obvious, purity and nobility.
Joseph Szigeti and Mieczys?aw Horszowski’s performance of Ferruccio Busoni’s Second Violin Sonata (which the composer considered his first mature work), released by Columbia on LP as ML 5224 and reissued on CD, again with Busoni’s Concerto, as Sony MPK 52537) represented the violinist at a time in his life when his violinistic skills had receded more obviously than had his interpretive penetration. (An arguably even more exciting—and surely more technically assured—reading by Szigeti and Clara Haskil from 1947 appeared on Classica d’Oro 2016,
26:5.) Gidon Kremer recorded the sonata with Valery Afanassiev in October 1987; Deutsche Grammophon released it in 1988 on 423 619-2, strongly recommended by John Wiser in
12: 4; it’s now available in an eight-CD set with sonatas by Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann (Deutsche Grammophon 474 648-2). And Joseph Lin included it in a program with the composer’s First Sonata, as well as the Four Bagatelles, op. 28 (Naxos 8.557848, reviewed by Adrian Corleonis in
31:2). Mintchev and Kapitanova allow the work’s prolix rhetoric to unravel in more relaxed strands and with a greater tonal elegance that imparts a sheen to the brooding atmosphere they create in the first section. They take the Presto more quickly than Szigeti might have dared to do in either performance but lose little of his undeniable power with either pianist in doing so even if they appear occasionally a bit less demonic (Mintchev and Kapitanova take a bit of time that interrupts the drive between the three slashing chords that end the section). In the last section, a set of variations on the chorale
Wie wohl ist mir, O Freund der Seele
, they trace the connections to the other sections more obviously than Szigeti did, but their strength lies in more than reference: Their ardor in the lyrical variations and their arch characterization of the Alla marcia section (in which Szigeti also bit fiercely) will seem, especially in Gega’s slightly reverberant but unquestionably three-dimensional recorded sound, to give Mintchev an edge, even allowing for Szigeti’s profound searching and his friendship with the composer. Mintchev brings greater warmth to the sonata’s slower sections that does Kremer. Wiser mentions the speed of the central Presto; in fact its speed not only precludes tonal niceties, as Wiser points out, but also obliterates much of the plentiful rhythmic detail, so Mintchev’s reading will appeal strongly to those seeking those qualities. And Mintchev more sharply characterizes both the slow movements and the Presto than does Lin.
Song and “Vardar” by the Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov (1899–1978) formed part of a recital of the same composer’s music by violinist Svetlev Roussev and pianist Elena Rozanova (Ambrosie 9953), which I recommended “for its heady, infectious music played with gusto and panache” in
29:2. Mintchev plays the Song, its ethnic harmonic coloration spiced by augmented seconds, with almost overwhelming intensity, and the slightly longer rhapsody with similarly stirring authority. These performances (seemingly recorded slightly closer up), which bring to an exhilarating end a recital that delivers even more assured musicianship than my admittedly roseate memories promised, deserve the warmest of recommendations to listeners of all sorts.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Chaconne in G minor by Tommaso Antonio Vitali
Mintcho Mintchev (Violin),
Marina Kapitanova (Piano)
Length: 12 Minutes 35 Secs.
Song for cello & piano by Pancho Vladigerov
Mintcho Mintchev (Violin),
Marina Kapitanova (Piano)
Length: 6 Minutes 7 Secs.
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