LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bravo!
WORKS: Works by Wieniawski, Chopin, Sarasate, Rachmaninov, Ysaÿe,
PERFORMER: Nikolaj Znaider (violin), Daniel Gortler (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 63960 2
Bravo! was the title of a 1970 Ruggiero Ricci LP, a tour de force of far more adventurous virtuoso fare than this well-worn selection. There’s no denying that Znaider (born 1975 in Denmark to Polish-Israeli parents) has a quite phenomenal command of his instrument. The double-stops, octaves, agility, penetrating attack and perfect intonation (exceptional in high positions and producing harmonics) fairly take your breath away. Everything is spot-on and – I use the term deliberately – razor-sharp. In the big showpiece numbers (Wieniawski’s Polonaise de concert, Ysaÿe’s Third Solo Sonata, Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo caprice) the glittering acrobatics duly impress, but when it comes to soulful lament (Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, Achron’s Hebrew Melody) or sugar-coated lyricism, Znaider leaves me cold. Listening to the two Chopin nocturne transcriptions set my teeth on edge: Wilhelmj’s arrangement of Op. 27/2 in particular needs playing of warmth and charm if it is not to militate against the essence of the original. Znaider’s skirling drills the eardrums. I turned to Heifetz (RCA) for the Achron, Ponce (Estrellita), Chopin and Rachmaninov items and, despite faster tempi, found myself seduced, not for the first time, by his miraculous tone, control and phrasing. Like Emanuel Bay for Heifetz, Daniel Gortler, accompanying Znaider, is relegated firmly into second place, but the recorded sound has crystal clarity and a focused presence.