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.
About the Author
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.
It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.
When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.
So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job.
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