Violin Concerto No. 8; Fantasie in E, ‘La Sentimentale’ etc
Alexander Markov (violin); Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha-Eisenach/Markus Huber
Naxos 8.574363 67:25 mins
Now largely forgotten outside violinist circles, Henry Vieuxtemps enjoyed a long and successful career as both fiddler and composer, beginning with his early appearances as a boy prodigy of the instrument. Berlioz, writing in 1841, had kind things to say about the 20-year-old, referring to him as ‘the new star whom the astronomers of the Conservatoire have spotted on the horizon.’ The first four tracks on this recording do justice, through the remarkable technique of Alexander Markov, to the virtuoso, but rather less to the composer, by presenting works written in his teens or, in the case of the Air varié No. 3, perhaps even earlier. While the result may be noteworthy in one so young, he was not a Mozart or a Mendelssohn, and it’s often all too easy to guess from the first few notes of an idea how it will continue.
The one extant movement of his Violin Concerto No. 8, begun in his last year of 1880 and here tactfully orchestrated by Christoph Baumgarten, is more interesting, though here again the virtuosic passages don’t always spring naturally from their surroundings. In later life Vieuxtemps claimed he wanted to produce music that had more true feeling than Paganini’s but, sadly, on this showing he lacked the crucial virtue of inventing memorable tunes, while his orchestration never rises above the workmanlike. How nice it would have been to have just one offering somewhere from a solo wind instrument.