ALBUM TITLE: Notte Veneziana
PERFORMER: Xavier de Maistre (harp); L’Arte del Mondo/Werner Ehrardt
CATALOGUE NO: 886979337732
This is a superb display of harp-playing at its best. At one extreme, the so-called ‘Albinoni Adagio’ (probably composed by Remo Giazotto in 1958) displays astonishingly warm harp tone, fingers barely caressing strings – indulgently sentimental and pure magic.
Xavier de Maistre plays four Vivaldi concertos, one transcribed from solo lute and strings, the others from violin, with great vitality in the fast outer movements. Most striking is ‘Winter’ from The Seasons, where he reinterprets with splendid ingenuity Vivaldi’s detailed instructions for representing ice, snow and bitter wind. His arrangement of a keyboard sonata by the Venetian-born Giovanni Pescetti is balanced and beautifully phrased.
De Maistre includes two outrageous showpieces of breath-taking virtuosity. La Mandoline, by the Englishman Alvars, is a ‘Grande Fantaisie’ with a delightful ‘thumb-tune’ in the middle of the texture. Berioz dubbed Alvars ‘the Liszt of the harp’, clearly with good reason. The disc ends with Carnival de Venise by Félix Godefroid, pupil of Alvars, in which a grandiose Fantasia introduces a set of phenomenally virtuosic variations on the familiar Venetian folk-tune.
The recording is a touch aggressive, though nothing that a tweak of your tone-control won’t moderate, and its immediacy and ‘presence’ add to the impact of a memorable disc.