Sarasate: Music for Violin and Orchestra, Vol. 1 (CD review)

Tianwa Yang, violin; Ernest Martinez Izquierdo, Orquesta Sinfonia de Navarra.  Naxos 8.572191.

Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908) was a virtuosic Spanish violinist who was also a noted composer (or vice versa).  On this disc we get seven of his short violin works for orchestral accompaniment, played by violinist Tianwa Yang, who previously recorded several highly regarded Naxos albums of Sarasate's music for violin and piano.  The addition of the orchestra only makes a good thing better.

The album begins with Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), one of the most famous pieces of "gypsy" music in existence, coming to life and showing its stuff in the second half after a lengthy introduction.  It's the kind of work that puts a violinist's full range of abilities on display, and Ms. Yang comes though unscathed.  Both she and the Orquesta Sinfonia de Navarra shine, lighting up the room with their electricity.  One hardly notices the orchestra, though, what with Ms. Yang putting on such an exhibition of technical prowess.

The Airs espagnols that follows is, for me, an even better piece of music than Zigeunerweisen, although it never attained the popularity.  The Airs espagnols perfectly captures the spirit of the Spanish countryside in a series of delightful folk tunes and original melodies.  For this brief, ten-minute, work alone the disc is worth its budget price.

The other music falls in line, with the Peteneras: Capriccio espagnol among the most multifaceted and lively, and the Nocturnes-serenade acting as a sort of calming rest stop in the procession of pyrotechnics on display in the rest of the music.

The sound that Naxos engineers capture is close and highly impressive, suiting the sweep of the music-making.  Although it does not exhibit a lot of orchestral depth, it does produce a clear, sharply defined presence, with excellent dynamics.  Fortunately, there are no traces of edginess, brightness, or glassiness to the sonics, so despite the closeness of the recording, things remain fairly smooth and warm throughout.

Trivia note:  Sarasate himself founded the Navarra Symphony Orchestra in 1879, making it the oldest active ensemble in Spain and, therefore, wholly appropriate to playing the man's music.


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Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

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Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

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