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Much Ado – Romantic Violin Masterpieces

Danbi Um (violin), Amy Yang (piano) (Avie)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Much Ado – Romantic Violin Masterpieces
Works by Achron, Bloch, Brahms, Korngold, Wagner, Hubay, Dohnányi et al
Danbi Um (violin), Amy Yang (piano)
Avie AV2615   61:38 mins

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For this album, Danbi Um has chosen pieces which, she says, ‘have shaped me in becoming the artist that I am today.’ Whether they are masterpieces is a moot point, but they suit her technically assured, passionate, involved playing – to a degree. Sometimes she lets her enthusiasm get the better of her, and digs in too hard, leading to harsh attack and coarse tone, not helped by the close recording. The four extracts from Korngold’s incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing show these pluses and minuses: there’s always a good feeling for the shape and direction of the melodic lines, but louder passages become overwrought, especially in the ‘March of the Watch’ and the ‘Hornpipe’; and the ‘Garden Scene’ lacks the charm that Heifetz memorably brought to it.

Her approach works better in the pieces based on the central-European folk tradition: Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 17, or Hubay’s Maros vize, for instance. And in the ‘Gypsy Andante’ from Dohnányi’s Ruralia Hungarica she gives an involved and well-shaped performance. She’s not always helped by Yang’s piano playing, which also tends towards the aggressive in forte: in the group of pieces from Jewish composers, the opening chords of Achron’s Hebrew Dance have an in-your-face quality which isn’t at all attractive. The quieter passages in Bloch’s Avodah draw intensity and tonal allure from both players, and Um’s use of portamento is idiomatic and fetching. But, ultimately, it’s that lack of charm which fails to draw you into the music.

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Martin Cotton