Strauss, Stravinsky, Bart—k

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COMPOSERS: Bartok,Strauss,Stravinsky
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Violin Sonata in E flat, Op. 18
PERFORMER: Vadim Repin (violin), Boris Berezovsky (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-85769-2
Though Vadim Repin is often overshadowed by fellow Russian Maxim Vengerov, his technique is impeccably honed and his playing reveals much subtlety of tone colour. He may not have Vengerov’s capacity to thrill, but his playing lacks nothing in character. In these recordings of Strauss, Stravinsky and Bartók he achieves a real sense of intimacy, aided by the ever-sensitive Boris Berezovsky.

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Kyung-Wha Chung’s DG recording of the Strauss Sonata with Krystian Zimerman is hard to better for its sensuous intensity (and is currently out of the catalogue), but Repin’s reading, impassioned and committed, certainly comes close. His rich tonal colourings and refined phrasing are always impeccably judged, and though he lacks Chung’s emotional edge, he achieves a delicacy that allows Strauss’s sumptuous themes room to breathe: the second movement, in particular, contains some deliciously light, playful moments.

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The bright-toned virtuosity required in both Stravinsky’s Divertimento and Bartók’s Romanian Dances sees Repin in his element: he tackles the most demanding of phrases with a wonderful lightness of touch. The Divertimento is in fact a transcription of The Fairy’s Kiss, made by Stravinsky and violinist Samuel Dushkin from the orchestral suite. Repin plays with boundless energy underpinned by a tender warmth, from the lush bravura of the ‘Danses suisses’ to the high-wire romancing of the Adagio. A gritty, biting edge to his tone adds to the vitality of the Bartók’s dance rhythms, and here again Repin’s expressive virtuosity – in the shimmering harmonics of the ‘Stamping Dance’ in particular – proves him a worthy equal to Vengerov. Catherine Nelson