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Obsession (Niek Baar)

Niek Baar (violin); Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra (Channel Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Dvořák: Romance in F minor; Kreisler: Praeludium and Allegro (in the style of Pugnani); Ravel: Tzigane; Tartini: Violin Sonata in G minor, ‘Devil’s Trill’; Tchaikovsky: Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42
Niek Baar (violin); Concertgebouw Chamber Orchestra
Channel Classics CCS44822   63:13 mins


Playing with a select band of string players from the Concertgebouw in skilful arrangements by Michael Waterman and Alexandra Lascae, recorded in gently atmospheric sound, Niek Baar’s debut album for Channel Classics oozes class. Coaxing a silvery, seductively pure sound from his 1729 Bergonzi violin, Baar places his distinctive interpretative stamp on a series of recital favourites, making each seem freshly minted.

Rather than going for a large-scale, luxurious sound, Baar allows the Bergonzi’s natural resonances to shine, employing a bewitching range of different bow pressures, speeds and angles to maximise its tonal colours. This really comes into its own in the gypsy delights of Ravel’s Tzigane, despatched with beguiling abandonment as Baar relishes the music’s wild imaginings rather than applying an all-purpose concert hall sheen. Dvořák’s glorious Romance also sounds more emotionally wide-ranging than usual, with gentle hints of dancing along the way.

Baar’s captivatingly wide dynamic range and supple rhythmic freedom comes to the fore in Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro, which is shorn of all Baroque pastiche as he shapes every phrase with a freewheeling sense of exhilaration. Individual notes ring out with senza vibrato purity, there is a touch of Grappelli in his fine-judged portamentos, and bowing contact varies from chilling spikiness near the bridge to an over-the-fingerboard flautando. Even Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata emerges afresh, completely free of cloying espressivo. Some may occasionally find Baar’s quick-fire responses almost too much of a good thing, yet it is that very individuality that makes his playing so compelling.


Julian Haylock