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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here's a handy formula for judging a disc by its cover: the quality of the performance will be inversely proportional to the amount of skin displayed by the artist. A bare shoulder, for example, might mean only a lackluster interpretation, while a navel could warn against faulty intonation; and substituting violin for bra or fig leaf-—well, it's anyone's guess what musical catastrophe that might forebode. By such a calculation, Akiko Suwanai 's photo is a good omen (although a hair and makeup artist receives credit on the back of the jewclbox, along with the producers, engineers, and editors).
All in all, 1990 Tchaikovsky Competition winner Akiko Suwanai's is indeed an auspicious recording debut, showcasing virtuosity in the
service of musical ideas. Her technique is faultless; her intonation, like Michael Rabin's, almost succulently pure; and her tone, warm, with great power on the G string, as in the soaring theme of the Concerto's finale. But the gestures make an even deeper impression than the technique that produced them. And if they converge in a personality more eclectic than individual, it's one that nevertheless speaks with a refreshing freedom from the mannerisms that distort performances at even so high a level as that of Kremer, Lin, and Vcngerov. Her mastery of the grand manner makes it less surprising that the notes tell of her listening to recordings of the great violinists of the past. Such an interest shouldn't, of course, be surprising, but in a day when conservatory personnel and orchestra managers barely recognize names like Oistrakh and Elman, horrifying surprises have proliferated. Finely crafted details reveal Suwanai's ability to make something out of nothing, as in the repetition of the theme of the Scottish Fantasy's finale in double-stopped eighth notes- it actually sounds Scottish, as it should and, now we know, it can. Sir Neville Marriner provides a robust accompaniment in both works; and the engineers, a wide dynamic range and close-up tonal profile of the violinist, perhaps excusable in a debut recording (although I wonder how many aficionados ever really object, except pro forma and in public, to this kind of magnification).
In choosing this pairing, Suwanai goes head-to-head with Debrett's Peerage: with Cho-Liang Lin (Sony SK42 315, whom James Miller found too aristocratic in manner in Fanfare 10:6) and with Jascha Heifetz (RCA Red Seal 6214-2, including Vieuxtemps's Fifth Concerto as well, reviewed by James Miller in Fanfare 11:3). Miller thought that other violinists had "treated the Bruch pieces more kindly" than had Heifetz; but it's hard not to take very seriously a performance of the Master's personal favorite (the Scottish Fantasy), in which a single portamento often opens new worlds of musical meaning. And although Miller considers Lin a bit diffident (for diffidence, compare Midori's Scottish Fantasy, Sony SK 58967, Fan/are 18:4), Lin attacks the Concerto's Vorspiel with a ferocious energy, in contrast with Suwanai's more even temperament (surprisingly similar, in the Vorspiel at least, to Maxim Vengerov's reading of the concerto with Kurt Masur on Teldec 4509-90875-2, Fanfare 17:6, pp. 103-04). For those who prefer to revisit the Concerto with a kinder, gentler guide, Suwanai's debut recording can be strongly recommended as a plausible choice. But those in search of a keener, more aggressive edge (except in the Scottish Fantasy's finale, where her dynamic energy is the equal of anyone's) will prefer Lin or, of course, vintage Heifetz.
-- Robert Maxham, Fanfare [3/1998]
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 1 in G minor, Op. 26 by Max Bruch
Akiko Suwanai (Violin)
Sir Neville Marriner
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields
Written: 1868; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
happy May 14, 2016
By Eleanor Kent (Dayton, OH) See All My Reviews
"very satisfied with cd and play it often. violinist unknown to me but her performance does her credit."