LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: Works for violin and piano
PERFORMER: Marat Bisengaliev (violin), Benjamin Frith (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: BBM 1016
Writing money-spinners for his instrument was how Elgar, boyhood fiddler with virtuoso aspirations, spent his youth and practised his craft. On this new release Black Box includes all the popular favourites – the Romance, Op. 1, Chanson de nuit and Chanson de matin, Op. 15, La capricieuse Op. 17. But also, enterprisingly, the unaccompanied Études caractéristiques, Op. 24 (marrying Paganini and Brahms). And the first recording of an Étude-caprice for violin and piano completed by his friend WH Reed. Elgar never worried about stepping in front of an army to ‘inspire them with a song’. Here’s the best kind of light music, memorably turned and immaculately crafted, with accompaniments that are models of the art. Music redolent of Victorian spas and watering-places, Edwardian pump-rooms and pantile promenades, yet transcending merely period fashion. Irresistible.
A whole disc of sweetmeats without the E minor Sonata might seem like a banquet without the main course. But Bisengaliev, as we know from his Naxos recordings, is a sensational player of intense musicality and tonal splendour. He delights in the nostalgia and demand of these pieces, bringing them glowingly alive, finding depth where others see only charm. You can’t fault the technique, the finish, the emotional charge. And in Frith he has an enduringly responsive partner – listen to the risks they take with the rubato world of La capricieuse. Odd production glitches aside, an absolute winner. Ates Orga