Notes and Editorial Reviews
I know Edin Karamazov from his gorgeous, but limited, accompaniments to Andreas Scholl’s collection of folk songs,
Wayfaring Stranger (Decca), and for his playing of Dowland and others, also frequently with Andreas Scholl, on “A Musical Banquet” (Decca). I am guessing that he is exceptionally modest. The notes to this new disc, which contains his own transcriptions for lute of Britten’s Nocturnal, written for guitar, and of Bach’s masterpiece for solo violin, contain a long, illuminating essay about the painting of Endymion that graces the cover, and a short note by Karamazov noting that every disc, even one made by a solo lutenist, is a collaboration. There is
nothing about Karamazov himself. Elsewhere he sounds like an interesting man: he plays Balkan music as well as Dowland, and has appeared with the eclectic rock star Sting. More important, I find him one of the most impressive living lutenists.
His Britten is among the most beautiful performances of this unsettling, or unsettled, work, which was written for Julian Bream, who premiered it in 1964. Though he never explained what he meant, Britten said that Nocturnal contains “disturbing images.” It begins with a movement marked Musingly, and it moves through agitation to restlessness, uneasiness, and through other movements suggesting a troubled spirit, until it settles on the final Passacaglia. The lute is, of course, a more tangy, brittle-sounding instrument than the guitar. It gives Karamazov’s performance a pointed, forward sound, which is perhaps not ideal for musing, but helps convey the essential restlessness of Britten’s conception. Karamazov’s impressive use of dynamics, the variety of his timbres, and his insistent rhythms, make his performance, even on this most fragile of instruments, powerful: I don’t know a performance of the Passacaglia that is more intense.
He doesn’t maintain that intensity in his performance of Bach’s most famous Partita for Solo Violin. Many listeners will have a favorite performance of this work: I remember a live performance of the Chaconne by Nathan Milstein that was so strong one could hardly bear it. I imagine no lutenist could get that effect, so the issue for listeners is whether one wants a transcription at all. Karamazov’s is certainly convincing. The ebb and flow of his dynamics seem to shape this unaffected, relaxed, lyrical performance. Guitarist Marc Seiffge has also recorded these Britten and Bach works on a single disc (Bayer Records). I believe that Bream’s recording of the Britten is currently available only on the huge Bream Collection of over 20 discs. Karamazov’s recording makes a lovely, warmly recorded, alternative.
Michael Ullman, FANFARE Read less
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