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Wieniawski, Conus: Violin Concertos / Soo Hyun Park

Release Date: 03/12/2013 
Label:  Onyx   Catalog #: 4109   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Henri WieniawskiJulius ConusHenri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Soo-hyun Park
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WIENIAWSKI Violin Concerto No. 1 in f?. CONUS Violin Concerto in e. VIEUXTEMPS Fantasia appassionata in g Soo-Hyun Park (vn); Nicholas Milton, cond; Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz ONYX 4109 (69:25)

The three concerted works that Soo-Hyun Park has chosen for her collection of virtuoso showpieces by 19th-century romantic violinist-composers aren’t the familiar ones, Read more even by the composers (except for Julius Conus). Henri Vieuxtemps has been represented more frequently by his Fourth and Fifth Concertos, while Henri Wieniawski’s First Concerto has been overshadowed, not only in popularity but critically, by his Second. Michael Rabin spoke what seemed like the last word on the neglected First Concerto in his studio performance in 1954, but his earlier live readings seem almost as vibrant and technically dazzling. Be that as it may, Park has almost as firm a grasp of the work’s violinistic difficulties as had the young Rabin, and at least as sympathetic a command of its impassioned Slavic rhetoric—note the momentary dramatic pauses in the first movement. The movement’s cadenza, according to the story, posed problems in flying staccato, the solution of which taught Jascha Heifetz (supposedly never entirely confident in his own flying staccato) the right way to approach the bowing. Park dodges the bullet, to a certain extent, by emphasizing the passages’ musical content and thus shearing them of the terrors that a more straightforward performance might have occasioned. Angel (presumably) cut some of the tuttis from Rabin’s reading of the movement, a practice then more common than now. (To my knowledge, there still hasn’t been an uncut recording of Carl Goldmark’s Concerto; Gil Shaham’s and Itzhak Perlman’s performances didn’t lie in the same Procrustean bed.) Complete recordings like Park’s, however, expose more orchestral passages to listeners’ scrutiny, and many may find the orchestration in those passages inept enough to place their omission within the realm of artistic integrity—less can be more. Park doesn’t suffuse the slow movement’s simple prayer with the same melting glow as did Rabin; and, if her version of the finale doesn’t dance so lightly as did Rabin’s, her stylistic understanding still enables her to make a sort of solid musical sense of it.

In the case of Conus’s Concerto, Heifetz provides the model performance that may (along with what many might consider the work’s inherent weaknesses) have discouraged others from taking it up. Just as Park’s poetic sensibility helped her to find her way through the technical mazes of Wieniawski’s Concerto, so here as well she relies on a sort of connatural feeling for the piece to invest its quieter, more thoughtful passages with a wealth of nuance, that makes them function far more vitally than as simple interludes between the fireworks—and she’s deeply touching in the slow movement. Nicholas Milton, the orchestra, and the engineers have provided a firm runway that lifts her solo flights into the air. But not all her solo passages fly—the cadenza sounds reflective and brooding; perhaps in passages like this, Heifetz’s always super-brilliant reading doesn’t take the work’s measure so shrewdly as does Park’s.

Vieuxtemps’s Fantasia appassionata hasn’t figured so prominently in his discography as have the violin concertos, but it’s a strikingly virtuosic work that displays his predilection for stirring, noble cantilena illuminated by bursting fireworks. Gidon Kremer, who has championed so many neglected works, recorded the piece in 1980 (re-released on CD, Philips 432513). More recently, Viviane Hagner bundled it with the composer’s Fourth and Fifth concertos (Hyperion 67798, Fanfare 34:1); and Misha Keylin, who has recorded all of the composer’s concertos for Naxos, included it in a collection of Vieuxtemps’s shorter works for violin and orchestra ( Ballade et Polonaise, Fantaisie Caprice , and Greeting to America , on Naxos 8.570974, Fanfare 34:2). If Park brought tender sensitivity to both Wieniawski’s and Conus’s concertos, she also attempts to do so here; but the Fantasia may require an approach that’s at least more fibrous if not starchier to make its arching passages soar. Maybe it’s just a sense of grandeur, which Keylin certainly brings to the work—and so, in a way, does Hagner, though Hyperion’s engineers didn’t place her so far forward, and so the grandiloquence of her gestures may not seem so overwhelming to a casual listener.

Soo-Hyun Park’s performances are certainly personal, and they deserve to be heard not only by collectors of the violin repertoire but by general listeners as well. Warmly recommended across the board.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin no 1 in F sharp minor, Op. 14 by Henri Wieniawski
Performer:  Soo-hyun Park (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Russia 
Concerto for Violin in E minor by Julius Conus
Performer:  Soo-hyun Park (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1896-1897; Russia 
Fantasia appassionata, Op. 35 by Henri Vieuxtemps
Performer:  Soo-hyun Park (Violin)
Conductor:  Nicholas Milton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rheinland-Pfalz State Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 

Sound Samples

Violin Concerto No.1 In F Sharp Minor Op.14: I. Allegro Moderato
Violin Concerto No.1 In F Sharp Minor Op.14: II. Preghiera: Larghetto
Violin Concerto No.1 In F Sharp Minor Op.14: III. Rondo: Allegro Giocoso
Violin Concerto In E Minor Op.1: I. Allegro Molto
Violin Concerto In E Minor Op.1: II. Adagio
Violin Concerto In E Minor Op.1: II. Cadenza - Allegro Subito
Fantasia Appassionata In G Minor Op.35

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