Saraste: Carmen Fantasy

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Canary Classics
WORKS: Carmen Fantasy*; Zigeunerweisen*; Song the Nightingale; Navarra for two violins*; Habanera, Op. 26 No. 2; Zapateado, Op. 23 No. 2 etc
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham & Adele Anthony (violin), Akira Eguchi (piano); *Castille & León SO/Alejandro Posada

Gil Shaham’s tribute to the great Spanish violinist Sarasate provides a generous helping of his virtuoso showstoppers alongside works that are far less familiar. The programme works pretty well, although after over 70 minutes of music, the composer’s limitations become ever more apparent, and those buying this disc would be advised to dip into the music on a selective basis.
Still, with his pure tone, immaculately clear delivery and refusal to over-indulge, Shaham proves to be an almost ideal interpreter of this repertory. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in these live recordings as he surmounts all the technical hurdles of the Carmen Fantasy and Zigeunerweisen with outrageous ease.
Unfortunately the engineering here isn’t entirely satisfactory, the boomy orchestral accompaniment sounding as if it was recorded in an underground tunnel.
For the works with piano, Shaham and his wife Adele Anthony are recorded in a studio with far better results. Both players offer some exceptionally delightful cameos, Anthony presenting a sensitive account of Song of the Nightingale in contrast to Shaham’s almost insouciant brilliance in Zapateado.
Less interesting to my mind is the Airs écossais, a somewhat longwinded set of arrangements of Scottish folk tunes, although Anthony plays them most dexterously. Nonetheless, the disc ends on a positive and tangible high with husband and wife combining to deliver an affecting and  sweetly lyrical account of Navarra. Erik Levi