Notes and Editorial Reviews
Mela Tenenbaum, ESS.A.Y’s house violinist, has turned in some virtuosic performances, including Locatelli’s “Art of the Violin” (ESS.A.Y CD 1043/4, 19:2 and ESS.A.Y CD 1068/9, 22:5), and some versatile ones (“Melaviola,” ESS.A.Y CD 1055, 21:5). Her collaboration with Richard Kapp in three representative Beethoven sonatas transcends these. Playing the Wilmot Stradivari loaned to her, Tenenbaum produces an opulent tone with a slight edge like that of Rosand’s or Francescatti’s. And she deploys that tone to produce both volcanic energy—as in the trio of the Fifth Sonata’s Scherzo and the exotic theme in the Ninth Sonata’s opening movement—and more careful, yet still crisp and piquant, articulation, as in the opening of the First Sonata’s
opening movement: versatility far more impressive than switching, however successfully, between violin and viola. Despite occasional personal expressive nuances, the duo follows closely the indicated articulations in the First Sonata’s first movement. And, as in several of the variations of the Ninth Sonata’s slow movement, slower tempos don’t diminish her voltage (as happened in performances by Anne-Sophie Mutter, on two Deutsche Grammophon DVDs, 26:3, which reached near stasis on occasion), amplified in these sections by especially rich tone production (although with the aforementioned drop of acid). Tenenbaum and Kapp’s strong-minded, if not strong-willed, playing of the Ninth Sonata, the first movement in particular, recalls Heifetz (irrespective of his pianist) in its crackling energy and Francescatti (with Casadesus) in its weight. They find darker shades than simple pastels in the Fifth Sonata (their coordination in the diabolically difficult ensemble of the Scherzo’s Trio contributes to its sweeping effect, as it did with Joseph Szigeti and Claudio Arrau, rereleased on Vanguard as OVC 8060/3).
The three sonatas represent three different relationships of the violin with the piano, with the violinist progressively taking a more prominent, although never dominant, role. But Tenenbaum and Kapp adjust effectively to these various relationships; Kapp manages the chamber dialogue of the First Sonata no less idiomatically than the thunderous virtuosity of the Ninth. And the engineers have provided a balance sensitive enough to allow Kapp to recede at the appropriate moments. For Tenenbaum’s lithe yet sumptuous tone, for her irresistible rhythmic energy, and for the intimate collaboration between violin and piano, as well as for Kapp’s intelligent melding of the roles of accompanist and soloist, ESS.A.Y’s release deserves a recommendation broader than simply to violinists and students.
Robert Maxham, FANFARE
"This is a wonderful combination of Beethoven sonatas...As I have said in other reviews of her playing, Tenenbaum, Tenenbaum tends to dominate the music she is playing. She has an extremely large musical personality, something vital to an effective performance of the Kreutzer. She and Kapp have a unified interpretation and an intimate joy in their music-making. The way they play on this recording makes me think of a concert that someone would give for friends at home...I can't say that I like these interpretations better than all of the other excellent recordings I have heard, but I can say that while I am listening, I feel that this is the way the music should go, and it makes me very happy to hear it."--- Elaine Fine, American Record Guide
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