Notes and Editorial Reviews
Romances: No. 2 in F; No. 1 in G.
Violin Concerto No. 8 in a,
Violin Concerto No. 3 in A
Uto Ughi (vn); Claudio Scimone, cond; I Solisti Veneti
DYNAMIC 522 (51:31)
Uto Ughi plays Beethoven’s two romances with a classical elegance that’s never either impersonal nor mannered, bringing a suave lyricism to the Second
(which appears first on the program) and a grittier though cheerful solidity to the First. Claudio Scimone and I Solisti Veneti provide a deeply resonant and highly revelatory accompaniment that exposes a wealth of detail that, while not audible in every performance, can hardly be considered coincidental to the musical argument.
Spohr’s Eighth Concerto, once championed by Jascha Heifetz (and Albert Spalding in his celebrated crisp reading), may be his most popular violin concerto, although it lacks the complexity of some of the later ones and the nobility of the Ninth, which also once enjoyed a certain popularity. From the outset, Scimone has marked Spohr with the romantic brand, pushing and pulling the tempo in the opening tutti. But Ughi, though warm and expressive, hews closer to the line. Theirs seems a softer grained and, on the whole, perhaps a more generic reading than Heifetz’s or even Spalding’s, the former distinguished by the Master’s irresistible rhetorical fervor and the latter by his older contemporary’s squeaky clean, snappy articulation. Yet Ughi doesn’t pale in comparison with these more highly charged competitors, even in the central section of the aria-like second movement, in which Heifetz leaves the listener breathless with sharply etched, rapid passagework. And anyone who feels that Heifetz simply pressed too hard in the transitional recitative before the finale should welcome Ughi’s comparative relaxation, achieved with no diminution of virtuosity. Heifetz shone perhaps most brightly in this finale, though almost equally so in the opening movement. In his exuberance he added thirds to scale-wise staccato lines, and it’s hard not to miss them in Ughi’s performance (or anyone else’s, for that matter). I’ve compared Heifetz to Ethel Merman in this Concerto; by comparison, Ughi’s a gentler, though no less personable, presence, say like Doris Day. His final cadenza is dazzling, though, oddly, he omits its first measures (it’s already short enough at full length not to overstay its welcome).
Giovanni Battista Viotti has in the last decade or so received a great deal of attention from violinists with a historical bent. Like Spohr, he reveled in minor keys, but he endowed them with so sunny a personality that a listener might excusably confuse minor and major, as one
reviewer once did. Danilo Prefumo’s notes mention that the Third Concerto stands as the first of Viotti’s 29 concertos to be published, but it contains the kind of writing for the violin that would become Viotti’s signature and hints at operatic orchestral writing in the finale. Especially in this Concerto, Ughi and Scimone blossom, at once ingratiating and compelling; while Ughi remains sweet-toned, Scimone provides an accompaniment that throws his soloist in high relief. The engineers have placed Ughi fairly far forward in this work, as they did in the others, but Viotti also moves his soloist to the fore, though he had a prescient symphonic view of the orchestral parts and a discriminating sense of orchestral colors that, if not quite equal to, say, Vivaldi’s, yet set a high standard for those who would follow him.
The recorded sound mixes clarity with reverberation. The performances come from June 12–14, 2006 in the Church of San Francesco in Schio. Those who take interest in the violin music of this period should find both the repertoire and the performances nearly irresistible, and others may find in them an addictive introduction to Spohr and, especially, to Viotti.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Concerto for Violin no 3 in A major by Giovanni Battista Viotti
Uto Ughi (Violin)
I Solisti Veneti
Written: by 1781; Italy
Featured Sound Samples
Romance for Violin and Orchestra no 2 (Beethoven)
Violin Concerto no 3 (Viotti): III. Rondeau
Be the first to review this title