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Fantasy: Works For Violin And Piano By Messiaen, Schoenberg & Schubert

Schubert / Yamada / Kynoch
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Stone Records   Catalog #: 80017   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Olivier MessiaenArnold SchoenbergFranz Schubert
Performer:  Rhona McKailSholto KynochKaoru YamadaNicky Spence
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MESSIAEN La Mort du nombre. 1 Thème et variations. Fantaisie. SCHOENBERG Phantasy, Op. 47. SCHUBERT Fantasie, D 934. Sei mir gegrüsst 2 Kaori Yamada (vn); Sholto Kynoch (pn); 2 Rhona McKail (sop); Read more class="SUPER12">1 Nicky Spence (ten) STONE 5060192780017 (70:03)

Soprano Rhona McKail and tenor Nicky Spence join violinist Kaori Yamada and pianist Sholto Kynoch for Olivier Messiaen’s setting of his own text, La Mort du nombre , the first of three works on their program, entitled Fantasy . Yamada’s allusive opening solo sets the tone for the piece itself as well as for her performance—highly nuanced and expressive (at first she alternates with the tenor part, which grows more animated, then with the soprano; the parts present their text in alternation, two “souls” seeking to overcome separation). Yamada, at last in an upper register, joins McKail in a vibrant conclusion. Throughout, McKail, Spence, and the two instrumentalists display an affinity for the haunting atmosphere of Messiaen’s early work, written, according to Kynoch’s notes, as a wedding present for his first wife. Yamada again joins Kynoch for the composer’s Thème et variations , in which she deploys fast vibrato as a highly expressive device, both in the allusive theme and in the more restrained variations, providing an Ariadne thread in the tonal labyrinth, more serpentine in this work than in the vocal one that opened the program. The engineers have captured all the performers close up, capturing highlights in the piano’s upper registers and revealing plentiful detail in both parts as well as the power of the climactic passages (some of the violin’s entries at the end of this work sound absolutely electrifying). As the notes jest, the discovery of the third early work, Fantasie , in 2007 doubled the composer’s available output for violin and piano. The harmonies return to a firmer tonality, and the dramatic urgency increases. Yamada and Kynoch rise to the heightened intensity of its rhapsodic declamation.

Kynoch suggests that although Arnold Schoenberg may have advanced—at least in his own estimation—beyond tonality, he didn’t abandon more traditional gestures, and he cites Glenn Gould’s discussion with Yehudi Menuhin about their commanding reading: Although the violinist may not have “understood” the work, he responded to its gestures. So, in fact, does Yamada, and she makes these transparently expressive to listeners as well. (Among younger players, Jennifer Koh also humanized what could have been simply abstract on Çedille CDR 90000 073, Fanfare 27:6—more so, I suggested in the same issue, than did Frank Huang on Naxos 8.557121.) The adventurous might, in fact, try the procrustean experiment of forcing everything into straightforward major and minor harmonies to decide just how traditional those gestures can be made to sound. Or might they, rather than traditional, be simply highly personal and individual; and might these, as the composer had hoped, be sufficiently clear in themselves to speak through the language’s mists? Yamada’s cogent and expressive—and overtly gestural—performance with Kynoch may suggest to many listeners the latter explanation.

Franz Schubert’s Fantasie remains one of the most awkward works in the literature for violin and piano to perform, although a casual inspection doesn’t reveal the hidden dangers. A generation ago violinists didn’t record it so frequently as they did Schubert’s early sonatas; now it seems to have entered the standard repertoire. The serenity of Yamada’s tone production, as she floats above the more active piano part during the introduction, creates a sensation in itself (the booklet’s photographs show her holding two different violins, neither identified in the notes), and she maintains great evenness with a seamless bow stroke in these passages. The duo plays the ensuing Allegretto with contagious rhythmic springiness, characterizing each of the variations with a wide dynamic range, expressively controlled; they ensure that the theme remains clearly present throughout. Returning playfully to the opening section, they build its tension to an explosive reading of the final passages. The program concludes with McKail and Kynoch’s fluid performance of the song, Sei mir gegrüsst , upon which Schubert based the variations. Textually and musically, it returns the recital to the theme of separation overcome, with which Messiaen’s La mort du nombre opened it. For those who enjoy thematic collections, this highly appealing and deeply thoughtful one should be irresistible. Strongly recommended, however, to everyone across the board.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

La mort du nombre by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Rhona McKail (), Sholto Kynoch (Piano), Kaoru Yamada (Violin),
Nicky Spence ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930; France 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 10 Minutes 50 Secs. 
Thème et Variations for Violin and Piano by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Sholto Kynoch (Piano), Kaoru Yamada (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; France 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 11 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Fantasie for Violin and Piano by Olivier Messiaen
Performer:  Sholto Kynoch (Piano), Kaoru Yamada (Violin)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 8 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Fantasy for Violin and Piano, Op. 47 by Arnold Schoenberg
Performer:  Kaoru Yamada (Violin), Sholto Kynoch (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 9 Minutes 41 Secs. 
Fantasy for Violin and Piano in C major, D 934/Op. 159 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Sholto Kynoch (Piano), Kaoru Yamada (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1827; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 25 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Sei mir gegrüsst, D 741/Op. 20 no 1 by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Rhona McKail (), Sholto Kynoch (Piano), Kaoru Yamada (Violin)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1821-1822; Vienna, Austria 
Venue:  Jacqueline du Pré Building, Oxford, Engl 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 

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