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C. FRANCK: Violin Sonata in A major
Tessa Lark, violin
(Artist info: http://www.gospelbluegrass.com/violinium/)
Ron Regev, piano
(Artist info: http://www.ronregev.com/)

SCHUBERT:  Sonata "Arpeggione" D.821
Yura Lee, viola
(Artist info: http://www.laphil.com/philpedia/artist-detail.cfm?id=1836 )
Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano
(Artist info: http://www.ievajokubaviciute.com )VII.8.2007 (Franck)
VII.20.2008 (Schubert)
Bennett-Gordon Hall
Ravinia Festival

256 kbs mp3 (no transcoding)
The so-called rising stars who perform at Ravinia Festival's Steans Institute Concerts are simply excellent young musicians, many of whom will never rise to the level at which they will make secure and comfortable living from concertizing alone.  Such melancholy prospects, however, in no way detract from the quality of their music-making, which is almost always superb, and occasionally no less than stellar.  The two live and unedited performances above belong to the latter category, and so does the quality of recorded sound (astoundingly realistic and natural even by the uniformly high standards of recordings made in the gorgeous acoustics of Bennett-Gordon Hall).
Call me a philistine, but I simply cannot endure the whiny, nasal, wobbly vibrato-laden violin tone favored by "great masters" of the past.  Much as I admire the piano part of the Franck sonata in the hands of Cortot, Casadesus or Richter, the playing of Thibaud, Francescatti or Oistrakh strikes me as an aural equivalent of waterboarding.  (The fact that in the "classic" recordings the violin is almost touching the microphone only makes things worse.)  If you decide to check out the above performance, you will hear why I was so overwhelmed by Tessa Lark's playing - passionate yet beautifully controlled, with impeccable intonation, and with tone that opens up in fortes without losing any of its warmth and focus.  I was even more impressed by Ron Regev's handling of the piano part.  His playing combines a warm, golden tone with tremendous authority of phrasing and unimpeachable technical security - the effect of which I find irresistible.  (I have several other chamber music recordings with Regev in which his playing is just as impressive.)
As for the Schubert sonata, I finally got my chance to throw away Bashmet's studio recordings (RCA).  I think the world of Bashmet as a violist and musician, but his studio recordings are hideous.  The viola image is as big as a city bus, and it looms over the piano image that is as wide as a two-car garage, with both "instruments" producing disembodied sounds in the acoustic ambience as dead as interstellar vacuum.  (And Mikhail Muntyan's pianism is boringly two-dimensional to boot.)       In the above recording, on the other hand, Yura Lee's tone is gorgeous, her intonation is impeccable, her phrasing has all the warmth and lyricism that the music calls for - and all this comes from a single concert performance rather than from multiple "takes", separated by days (or weeks, or months) and peppered by inner edits here and there.  And when towards the very end of the sonata Schubert finally gives the piano a few bars of its own, Ieva Jokubaviciute sings like few pianists can, making those few bars alone worth the price of admission for piano buffs like myself.
7 years ago | Read Full Story
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