Notes and Editorial Reviews
Daniel Dodds (vn); Tomasz Trzebiatowski (pn)
OEHMS 832 (73:08)
Solo Violin Sonata No. 3,
Caprice No. 24.
Etude No. 4,
“The Last Rose of Summer.”
Quartet for the End of Time:
Louange à l’immortalité de Jésus
Daniel Dodds’s premiere recording, mixing familiar virtuosic
tours de force
with contemporary quasi-experimentation, displays a wide range that still includes the literature that aficionados of violin music have come to cherish. Some of these pieces, in fact, like Bach’s Chaconne, Paganini’s 24th Caprice, and Ysaÿe’s
, serve as a technical and musical foundation for violinistic art.
The fast clip at which Dodds plays the theme of Bach’s Chaconne might suggest a performance rushed almost to the point of impertinence did not the overall timing (13:30; Jascha Heifetz played it at 13:11 in 1935) and his generally elevated and thoughtful manner (reminiscent of the nuanced nobility and bracing technical command of Nathan Milstein, for whom he played in master classes) suggest otherwise. The arpeggiated sections ripple along in this performance; and Dodds sometimes allows chords to resonate after he’s lifted the bow, imparting to the work a refreshing lightness diametrically opposed to heavy-handed would-be profundity. These characteristics may outweigh any suggestion of instability occasioned by the combination of fleetness and the Chaconne’s difficulty. Ysaÿe’s Solo Violin Sonata No. 3, “Ballade,” may, on the other hand, sound to some listeners exploratory and even occasionally somewhat tentative; though it’s a personal reading that incorporates many romantic gestures and manners, it may not universally communicate the sense of flamboyance that marks performances like those of David Oistrakh or even Ruggiero Ricci. The resolutely grinding dissonances of Luciano Berio’s
VIII don’t sound at all tempered by the more rounded sonority of the 1717 Baumgartner Stradivari loaned to Dodds. In fact, Dodds plays some of the noodling passagework with the precision of an electronic keyboard, although the style ultimately always sounds violinistic. He also exerts the control required to make the work’s dynamic design an essential component of the architecture. For those willing to expand the traditional boundaries of violin music, the
and this heady performance should provide a fascinating and rewarding near-quarter-hour.
Paganini’s 24th Caprice, a touchstone of virtuosity, appears in its original form and in Nos. 1, 2, 5, 42, 18, 22, 24, 25, 45, 38, 49, and 51 from George Rochberg’s
. At times, as in Paganini’s own pizzicato variation, Dodds sounds a bit jangled and uneven, but he generally brings off the set with aplomb if not with the ultimate sizzle. The first few of Rochberg’s variations might almost fit into the original as lost manuscript pages, but soon Rochberg’s harmonies and melodic explorations begin to broaden, leaving Paganini’s world far behind. Dodds seems to revel in the most suggestive of these before returning to variations with a firmer harmonic foundation (including one that sounds as if it’s been drawn from Brahms’s Violin Concerto).
It seems as though Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst attempted to outdo Paganini’s famous sets of variations (perhaps explicitly those on
God Save the Queen
), as Henri Wieniawski would later try to outdo his. The variations on
The Last Rose of Summer
, the sixth of his polyphonic studies, takes things about as far, in reality, as they can go. But to miss the poetry underlying all the bristling difficulties is to miss the point, and it seems at times that Dodds risks doing so, however great the panache with which he dispatches its terrifying difficulties. The scrapings and rappings of Thüring Bräm’s
sound, paradoxically, more ostensibly capricious, though regular, than anything Paganini ever so designated. Still, the composer specifies, in a passage quoted in Johannes Joerg’s notes, six kinds of articulation through which the piece progresses, so there’s macro order as well as micro order. The program concludes with a serene performance of the last movement of Olivier Messiæn’s
Quartet for the End of Time
, in which pianist Tomasz Trzebiatowski joins Dodds. The recorded sound captures Dodds and his violin at a sort of respectful distance.
Perhaps ironically, the fireworks in Dodds’s performance occur in his taut readings of Bach and Berio rather than in the most overtly virtuosic compositions, and it’s for the Bach, Berio, and Rochberg pieces that the disc can be most enthusiastically recommended, so listeners, whatever their predilections, should find something to admire.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Clockwork by Thüring Bräm
Daniel Dodds (Violin)
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