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Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Bach: Chaconne / Bin Huang

Beethoven / Huang / Orch Filarmonica Giovanile
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Dynamic   Catalog #: 7656   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Ludwig van BeethovenJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Bin Huang
Conductor:  Michele Trenti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Genova Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BEETHOVEN Violin Concerto 1. BACH Solo Violin Partita No. 2: Chaconne Bin Huang (vn); Michele Trenti, cond; O Filarmonica Giovanile de Genova DYNAMIC 7656 (60:40) Live: 1 Genoa 2/21/1995

Beethoven’s august Violin Concerto and Bach’s monumental Chaconne, recorded respectively on Joseph Guarneri del Gesù’s 1742 Cannon Read more (Nicolò Paganini’s instrument) and on the same maker’s 1737 Panette (for a time, Isaac Stern’s) by 1994 Paganini competition winner Bin Huang in 1995 and 2000—this kind of description almost obviates the necessity for a review. To sweeten the deal, add that the recorded sound, while capturing the violinist close up in the Concerto, remains well balanced.

Huang gives an Olympian account of the Concerto’s first movement, as sure in its musical message as in its technical and tonal aplomb. There’s some coughing during the movement, suggesting either a live performance (in Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice) or a noisy bunch of engineers (the applause at the end reveals it to be the former). But it doesn’t detract a great deal from the high-minded, probing reading. Michele Trenti brings out a plentiful orchestral detail (as do the engineers), the former providing lots to which Huang can react and the latter showing clearly how she does so; alone, she’s suave as well as brilliant in Fritz Kreisler’s cadenza. In the slow movement, what seems like occasional passing sour intonation in the winds doesn’t deflect Huang from her heartfelt delivery of the music’s main argument. She’s ruddy and vigorous in the Finale. Her high tensile strength (as also her cleanliness and noble purity) in this Concerto recalls Leonid Kogan’s, though that violinist made his recordings (in 1957 on Melodiya with Kiril Kondrashin; in 1958—live—with Rudolf Kempe on Idis 6557 [ Fanfare 33:3]; in 1959 with Constantin Silvestri on Columbia—an earlier version with André Vandernoot seems not to have been issued; in 1966 with Yevgeny Svetlanov on Melodiya; in 1981 with his son Pavel, also on Melodiya—to say nothing of a video with Froment from March 12, 1966, on EMI DVB 4928359 [ Fanfare 27:1]) before the era of digital sophistication, if it can be called that.

Bach’s Chaconne comes in all sizes, from Heifetz’s extra-short to Szigeti’s extra-long. On this rack, Huang’s Chaconne, at 15:50, seems like a medium long. But that’s an impression gleaned mainly from the timing; I’ve never hurried a student who brought the work in at such a mark, and Huang suggests expansiveness and attention to detail rather than sluggishness. She lets the sections in rapid notes scurry along, imparting to them a strong impetus as well as a brilliant sheen, and she never degenerates into the metronomic, avoiding both Scylla’s rigidity and Charybdis’s license; in fact, ingratiating rhythmic give-and-take abounds. Miked up close but surrounded with considerable reverberation, the tone of the Panette Guarneri blossoms and the chords ring.

Both in the Concerto and in the Chaconne, Huang defies the stereotype of mechanical inflexibility and insensitivity to tonal (as well as rhythmic) nuance that prompted an infamous remark by one of the older generation that Eastern players could never rival the violinists (like him) of the golden era. At least in the Chaconne Huang does so, and in the Concerto she bids fair to do the same thing, although the orchestra occasionally spoils the effect she so effortlessly creates. Warmly recommended despite that, for its many moments of memorable violin playing and for its incomparable repertoire.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Violin in D major, Op. 61 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Bin Huang (Violin)
Conductor:  Michele Trenti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Genova Philharmonic Youth Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1806; Vienna, Austria 
Partita for Violin solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 5th movement, Chaconne by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Bin Huang (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 

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