Wieniawski, Sarasate

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COMPOSERS: Sarasate,Wieniawski
WORKS: Polonaise brillante No. 2 in A, Op. 21; Polonaise No. 1 in D, Op. 4; Mazurka, Op. 19/1; Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16; Variations on an Original theme, Op. 15; Spanish Dances, Opp. 21, 22 & 23 (excerpts); Introduction and Tarentella, Op. 43
PERFORMER: James Ehnes (violin), Eduard Laurel (piano)
In the booklet, James Ehnes makes a plea for the return of this sort of lighter fare to the violin recital. He’s certainly a strong advocate, with a smooth sound, spot-on intonation, a natural sense of rubato, and, most importantly in this music, a sense of fun. In the Polonaise brillante, his phrasing is as witty and stylish as a dance by Fred Astaire, and the Mazurka unfolds with an insouciant elegance. He can turn on the power when he wants to: the unaccompanied opening of the Variations with its double stops really bites, and his tone on the G string has a plangent quality. Eduard Laurel’s a sensitive partner as far as rubato is concerned, but is often heavy-handed in louder music – and his closeness in the rather resonant recording doesn’t help. Not that he ever covers Ehnes, whose volleys of pizzicato in Sarasate’s ‘Malagueña’ come across with penetrating accuracy. The one place where rubato is overdone is in the ‘Habañera’, though the portamentos still have a delicious charm, and there’s a more relaxed ebb and flow in the ‘Romanza andaluza’. Ehnes saves the most spectacular fireworks for the end: the Tarantella explodes with infectious verve, blinding harmonics and razor-sharp rhythm. Martin Cotton