Notes and Editorial Reviews
Much Ado about Nothing:
Rachel Patrick (vn); Benjamin Boren (pn)
ENHARMONIC 11-020 (56:15)
Rachel Patrick and Benjamin Boren give an account of the first movement of Maurice Ravel’s Violin Sonata that initially pits Boren’s bright-toned, sharply articulated pianism against Patrick’s
slinkier, subtler playing of the violin’s highly contrasting part. But both instrumentalists explore the darker shadows of the movement’s central region, and Patrick plays with thick, full-throated richness as they emerge from it into the light. They’re as effective musically as Joseph Szigeti and Carlo Bussotti, although Patrick is considerably suaver tonally (Szigeti made his recording in 1953 when he sounded almost compromised, although that hardly affected the subtlety of his reading). In the slow movement, Patrick returns to the honey-like sound she produces, especially on the lower strings, but she’s as rhythmically vital as Szigeti in the pizzicato sections. If it’s a fairly straightforward reading metrically, it avoids caricature or mannerism; and if it’s not so frightening in its intensity as Szigeti’s, it’s nevertheless consistently sophisticated and energetic. The finale sounds more polite than does Szigeti’s but it builds to almost as imposing a conclusion. Altogether, Patrick’s and Boren’s reading stands with those of Dong-Suk Kang (Naxos 8.550276, reviewed by David K. Nelson in
15:5), Viktoria Mullova (Onyx 4015,
30:5), Maria Bachmann (Endeavor 1020,
30:6), and Antje Weithaas (Cavi 8553123,
32:4) as among worthy successors of Szigeti’s benchmark reading.
Patrick and Boren sharply characterize each of the four pieces in Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s suite from his incidental music to William Shakespeare’s
Much Ado about Nothing
. They’re skittish in the first (“Mädchen im Brautgemach”), strutting in “Holzapfel und Schlehwein,” tender in the “Gartenscene,” and bracing in “Mummenschanz.” And Patrick can deploy her sumptuous tone to advantage, unaffected by the sense of mystery in which she enveloped it—albeit to good effect—in Ravel’s sonata. Philippe Quint played the suite with orchestra on Naxos 8.570791(
33:2), but Gil Shaham enjoys the partnership of André Previn as pianist on Deutsche Grammophon 439 886-2 (
18:3) but seems somehow less allusive; violinist Joseph Lin and pianist Benjamin Loeb seem even more arch in their characterizations, especially of the fast movements, on Naxos 8.557067,
32: 3, though Lin’s doesn’t generally sound so lush tonally as does Patrick.
The first movement of Richard Strauss’s concerto-like sonata, calling for perhaps more strenuous tone production, reveals timbral strain in Patrick’s middle registers, perhaps due more to her instrument than to any shortcoming in her technique: She soars in the upper registers and sounds lush in the lower, as the preceding two works convincingly demonstrate. Nevertheless, she manages to convey the Allegro’s majestic sweep and to contrast it effectively with the main theme’s quieter restatements, and Boren matches her gesture for gesture. Their scaled-back, chamber-like interchanges at the end of the second movement sound both intimate and vibrant; they sound authoritative in the Finale. I’ve mentioned before how much Jascha Heifetz liked this sonata (two recorded performances: in 1934 with Arpad Sandor and in 1954 with Brooks Smith, and live, again with Smith in 1972). Recently, Catherine Manoukian gave a reading of the sonata (Marquis 81385,
34:4) that captures some of Heifetz’s intensity. Patrick sounds by comparison more careful in articulation but less flexible and dynamic in her approach to Strauss’s sweeping rhetoric.
With a program of highly appealing works and an approach intelligently tailored to each, Rachel Patrick’s recital with Benjamin Boren deserves a strong recommendation, not only to collectors of these works (who should find them highly satisfying) or even to violin aficionados (who should be almost equally enthusiastic), but to more general listeners as well.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
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