Rachmaninoff, Dvor‡k, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Ponce, Massenet, Bazzini, etc

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COMPOSERS: Bazzini,Brahms,Dvorak,etc,Massenet,Ponce,Rachmaninoff,Schubert,Tchaikovsky
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Vengerov & Virtuosi
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Maxim Vengerov (violin), Vag Papian (piano); Virtuosi
Like many a talented soloist, Maxim Vengerov has a weakness for showmanship. Although this CD is billed as ‘Vengerov & Virtuosi’ (Virtuosi being an Israeli group of 11 violinists mostly of Russian extraction) there is only one virtuoso on display: Maxim Vengerov. While Vengerov’s playing of this selection of encores and lollipops ranges from tear-jerking caresses to rather absurd approximations of the mating calls of a selection of garden birds, the Virtuosi provide a discreet accompaniment that often acts as little more than a sentimental sheen. In Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir d’un lieu cher, for example, whose original scoring for violin and piano is augmented to violin, piano and 11 more violins, a touching set of miniatures is pushed remorselessly towards the maudlin by the unnecessary embellishments brought by the surplus strings. Other items, such as Ponce’s ‘Estrellita’ and Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’, similarly suffer from unimaginative, wallowing arrangements that reduce the Virtuosi to a Hollywood orchestra. Certainly Vengerov demonstrates in many places his ability to play both brilliantly and beautifully, and his recital performances well deserve the encores he gets. But a selection of encores without the performances, especially encores as schmaltzy as these, leaves one feeling something rather important is missing. Christopher Wood