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Liszt: Works For Piano & Violin / Jura & Alissa Margulis

Liszt / Margulis / Margulis
Release Date: 11/15/2011 
Label:  Oehms   Catalog #: 403  
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa MargulisJura Margulis
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LISZT Duo Sonata. Grand Duo Concertant. Petrarch Sonnet 102. Hungarian Rhapsody. Epithalam. Romance Oubliée. La Lugubre Gondola Alissa Margulis (vn); Jura Margulis (pn) OEHMS 403 (71:48)

Alissa and Jura Margulis, violinist and pianist, brother and sister, have assembled a chronological program of works for violin and piano (several of them in transcription) by Franz Liszt, perhaps not coincidentally on the bicentennial of the composer’s birth. Their program opens with Read more the Duo Sonata, which Liszt based on Frédéric Chopin’s Mazurka, op. 6/2. Brother Jura’s notes suggest that the sonata appears in its original form, having been left in manuscript during the composer’s lifetime; it offers brilliantly virtuosic passages for pianistic display but fewer opportunities for the violinist. Sister Alissa doesn’t seem able to match her brother’s thundering tonal (or perhaps even technical) command in the first movement, though her 1754 Guadagnini itself seems to possess deep tonal richness, especially in its lower registers. She tends to scoop in the movement that follows, a theme with variations, and although she articulates sharply in some of the variations, she sounds occasionally a bit insecure tonally and technically in the pyrotechnical third movement—that’s her brother’s show all the way. Still, she strongly characterizes the fourth movement’s strutting rhythms and concludes in an impressive blaze of glory.

The notes identify the Grand Duo Concertant as deriving from Le Marin , written by violinist Charles Philippe Lafont, and this work pairs the two instruments more equally. The piano may by its very nature overwhelm the violin by virtue of the relative sizes of the instruments—with both playing all out, the smaller one can’t match the larger. Still, at more restrained moments, Jura and Alissa prove a very harmonious duo, with the violin part all the better balanced for its sounding as idiomatic as the piano part. Still, the pianist must reach deeper into his bag of tricks than the violinist, so if there’s some residual imbalance (a “brilliancy gap,” in Cold War patois), that’s not due to the performing musicians.

The Petrarch Sonnet appears in a version by Jura, who in his notes claims to have drawn upon Liszt’s versions as a song and as two piano pieces. Of its nearly nine minutes, about two and a half consist of introductory material. Jura chews on the theme by himself before Alissa enters, sounding particularly nuanced and expressive and soaring into the higher register with thrilling tonal command (although the piano still provides its coruscating commentary). Together, they bring the work to a conclusion of nearly transcendental repose. The nearly 11-minute and somewhat discursive Hungarian Rhapsody consists of an arrangement of The Three Gypsies for violin and piano by the Hungarian violinist and composer Jenö Hubay, and of all the works on the program, it sounds the most overtly violinistic. Alissa acquits herself for the most part creditably, although she sounds strained in the opening. The two shorter pieces, Epithalam and Romance oubliée , the first a wedding present for violinist Eduard Reményi, strike a more overtly melodic posture. The first comprises a bolder statement in its middle section, while the second remains relatively sinuous from its beginning to its end. Jura refers to La Lugubre Gondola , written during the year before the composer’s death, as exploring almost unknown harmonic territory (Liszt also experimented with highly chromatic patterns even in symphonic works). The duo revels in the work’s elusive expressivity.

For those interested in the composer’s œuvre, the duo’s chronological presentation should provide insight into Liszt’s development, as well as into 19th-century traditions in transcription. Violinists and general listeners, however, may not find that the duo makes the collection more appealing than that by violinist Chris Nichols and pianist Jonathan Ayerst, which overlaps the Margulises’s program with the Grand Duo Concertant, the Duo Sonata, and the Epithalam , on Hyperion CDA66743, Fanfare 18:6. In general, the Margulises sound edgier timbrally (with Oehms’s recorded sound capturing them with bracing proximity), and also more aggressive in articulation, though perhaps no more technically secure. The non-overlapping portion of the program may be decisive for those choosing between Nichols and Margulis. Others may wish to explore the two volumes of Liszt’s music performed by violinist Friedemann Eichhorn and pianist Rolf-Dieter Arens on Hännsler 98.588 and 98.634, the latter of which I reviewed in Fanfare 35:3.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Duo for Violin and Piano, S 127 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1832-1835; France 
Grand Duo concertant on Lafont's "Le Marin", S 128 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1837/1849; France 
Années de pèlerinage, deuxième année, S 161 "Italie": no 5, Sonetto 104 del Petrarca by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1837-1849; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranged for violin and piano by Jura Margulis. 
Die drei Zigeuner for Violin and Piano, S 383 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1864; Hungary 
Notes: Arranged by Jeno Hubay, alternate title: Hungarian Rhapsody for violin and piano. 
Epithalam zu Eduard Reményis Vermählungsfeier, S 129 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1872; Rome, Italy 
Romance oubliée for Violin/Viola/Cello and Piano, S 132 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880 
La lugubre gondola for Violin/Cello and Piano, S 134 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Alissa Margulis (Violin), Jura Margulis (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882-1885 

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