LABELS: EMI Debut
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Works for Violin and Orchestra
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor; Baal shem; Fantasy; Zigeunerweisen
PERFORMER: Ittai Shapira (violin); ECO/Charles Hazlewood
CATALOGUE NO: CDZ 5 73501 2
For the first time, the EMI Debut series has splashed out on an orchestral accompaniment for one of its young artists. Was it wise, though, for the 24-year-old Israeli, Juilliard-trained violinist Ittai Shapira to lead with such a familiar piece as the Bruch G minor Concerto? While his performance is accomplished and well projected, it never quite takes wing after a somewhat ponderous first few minutes; and the finale is held back by an over-pernickety articulation of all the grace-notes in the first theme. Under Charles Hazlewood, the ECO – with relatively few strings and unusually clear wind – matches Shapira in weight, although it might have been more suitable for a slimmer reading. In comparison, Shapira’s near-contemporary Maxim Vengerov, recorded at the age of 19 with Kurt Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, sails through the work with perfect ease and naturalness.
Of the generous selection of couplings, the Fantasy by Kenji Bunch (born 1973) is a disappointment, using a programme about ‘the struggle for the existence of fantasy in the contradicting face of 20th-century reality’ as an excuse for a good old Hollywood wallow. But there is a suitably ardent performance of Bloch’s Baal shem, rarely done with orchestra, and a suitably brilliant one of Sarasate’s virtuoso Gypsy Melodies. Throughout, Shapira displays a reliable technique, and an attractive tone with intelligently varied vibrato. But the microphones frequently catch a gritty sound when his bow presses hard on the G string – something he will need to work on as his clearly promising career progresses. Anthony Burton