COMPOSERS: Lalo,Ravel,Saint-Sa‘ns & Sarasate
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Howard Zhang
WORKS: Works by Lalo, Ravel, Saint-Saëns & Sarasate
PERFORMER: Howard Zhang (violin); Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia/Takuo Yuasa
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555093
Firework displays are short. Why? The ruinous expense, of course, but also a law of diminishing returns that applies to anything that fizzes and sparkles spectacularly. After a while, and not a very long while, they become boring. In light of this natural law it is paradoxically a blessing that Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole is such a damp squib. It’s not really a symphony, except in length, nor is it a successful virtuoso piece, being too long and diffuse. It tires us not through excessive excitement but through the very lack of it. But in the context of 19-year-old Howard Zhang’s survey of Spanish-tinged showpieces, it at least leaves the listener relatively fresh for the better stuff to come.
Zhang’s performance of Ravel’s Tzigane drips with gypsy passion, or at least what we non-gypsies think of as such, and a kind of swaying obduracy is nicely captured both in the work and in Zhang’s performance. His Saint-Saëns Havanaise is a lovely, easeful vision, followed by a splendidly effervescent Sarasate Carmen Fantasy.
Full marks must go to Takuo Yuasa’s stewardship of the Hungarian-based orchestra, the Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia, which in the characterfulness of its playing supplies much more than mere accompaniment. Christopher Wood