Beethoven, Brahms, Ravel, Salonen, Grey and Messiaen

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Grey and Messiaen,Ravel,Salonen
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Leila Josefowicz
WORKS: Violin works
PERFORMER: Leila Josefowicz (violin), John Novacek
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 61948-2
Experiencing the rapt concentration and infinitely subtle emotional and dynamic terracing of these performances, you’d barely credit this as the same player who burst on to the scene almost exactly ten years ago with a dashingly virtuoso coupling of the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos. There is now an almost Zehetmair-like, probing, nothing-taken-for-granted quality about Leila Josefowicz’s playing that marks out this, her first (immaculately engineered) release on Warner, and suggests absorbing and exciting new musical possibilities.

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Rarely have the ghostly, blues-tinged, half-whispered intimacy of Ravel’s exquisite G major Sonata been so eerily voiced, the violin discreetly balanced so as to create the impression of it constantly emerging from and being absorbed back into the seductive texturing of John Novacek’s multi-faceted pianism. It is fascinating to compare Ravel’s late-period wrestling with his stylistic inner demons (the Sonata was completed in 1927) with Messiaen’s exuberantly inventive Theme and Variations, an early work written just five years later, which in this percpetive performance hints tantalisingly at future glories.

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What an inspired idea to counterbalance these two Gallic trailblazers with a late masterpiece by Beethoven (also in G) and a dramatic early Scherzo by the man destined to carry his mantle into the second half of the 19th century – Johannes Brahms – especially in performances so sensitive to the music’s semantic insinuations. To round things off, two world premiere recordings of solo pieces. Salonen’s Lachen verlernt provides an at times bracingly pyrotechnical take on the ancient chaconne, while ear-tweaking eclecticism is very much the order of the day in Mark Grey’s San Andreas Suite. A winner. Julian Haylock