ROMANTIC NOVELTIES • Hideko Udagawa (vn); Martyn Brabbins, cond; Philharmonia O • SIGNUM 224 (53:57)
RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Fantasy on Russian Themes, op. 33. GADE Capriccio in a. YSAŸE Mazurka, op. 10/2. Saltarelle Carnavalesque. GLAZUNOV Read more class="ARIAL12bi">Méditation, op. 32. TCHAIKOVSKY Sérénade mélancolique, op. 26. JOACHIM Variations in e
As did her earlier programs of music by Khachaturian and Rachmaninov, Hideko Udagawa’s collection Romantic Novelties includes an intriguing mix of the familiar (Tchaikovsky, Glazunov), the less familiar (Joachim), and the relatively unknown (Gade, Ysaÿe). Her teacher, Nathan Milstein, recorded Rimsky-Korsakov’s Fantasy in 1962, and her performance pays several kinds of tribute to him—not only in the choice of repertoire, but in similarities of her style to his. For example, it’s easy to hear in the opening flourish the way Milstein played the opening of Dvo?ák’s concerto (and of course, the Fantasy itself, from 1963 and in stereo, played with an orchestra conducted by Robert Irving, in The Art of Nathan Milstein, EMI 6-ZDMF 64830, in which Milstein actually sounds, though similarly expressive, incomparably more suave—although, perhaps because he identified with this repertoire, that might have been expected). Incidentally, the booklet gives the wrong timing for this track; it lasts 9:45, rather than 4:00. In any case, Gade’s Capriccio in A Minor, one of the less-unfamiliar works, combines lyricism with rhythmic piquancy. Udagawa carries off the brilliant passagework as effectively as she does the poignantly songful interludes. Eugène Ysaÿe’s Mazurka, billed as a premiere recording, requires panache in the bold technical passages, but the haunting subject itself represents a subtler (though, in comparison with the materials in his late solo sonatas, relatively straightforward) manner of expression; Udagawa easily moves back and forth among these, making a strong case for this hitherto unrecorded work.
Milstein also played Glazunov’s Méditation (available in the same EMI collection cited above). Udagawa is no more averse to the occasional expressive portamento than he had been, a manner in which she excels. Ysaÿe’s Saltarelle alternates major and minor and includes the usual touches (for the violin part, the swirling upward diminished seventh chord); Udagawa makes it sound more reflective than circus-like. Her tone on the G string throbs at the beginning of Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique, and although it seems like a piece that Milstein might have chosen, he never recorded it. Udagawa’s manner approaches his in works like this: heightened expressivity that, passed through the twin filters of meticulous craftsmanship and patrician musical sensibility, emerges as palatable to the even most fastidious taste. So if the octaves at the climax don’t burn with Heifetz’s white-hot intensity, they’re convincing in their own elegant way. Joseph Joachim’s Variations in E Minor, the longest work on the program, brings it to a conclusion. Joachim, who shaped the highly idiomatic transcription of Brahms’s Hungarian Dances for violin and piano (and contributed to many other works, such as Brahms’s and Dvo?ák’s violin concertos), also achieved renown as a composer, whose difficult but ingratiating “Hungarian” Concerto has in recent years enjoyed a renaissance of interest. His variations, like Brahms’s concerted works for violin, weave a brilliant solo part into a complex orchestral fabric; although one of the great virtuosi in violin history and never reluctant to incorporate the greatest difficulties in his solo parts, he never wrote showpieces. In this regard, the variations fit the mold of his other compositions, hardly ever making an effect for its own sake, though they sound tremendously difficult. As throughout the program, Martyn Brabbins and the Philharmonia Orchestra provide insightful accompaniments (though here they rise far above that role, attaining to an almost Brahmsian grandeur), but the engineers have placed Udagawa front and center (supported by a bit of reverberation) throughout the program.
Hideko Udagawa displays a great stylistic flair and a strong musical personality throughout this challenging and diverse program, as well as a tone that, like Francescatti’s, possesses a slight, bright edge that allows her to cut through passages in double-stops with bracing clarity. If occasionally (particularly in those same double-stopped or chordal passages) her bow arm sounds a bit stiff, she makes a strong impression overall. And all kinds of listeners should find her program attractive, rich in both insightful explorations of the unknown and in uniquely personal views of the familiar.
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