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NIGEL ARMSTRONG, v. — BARTOK, BACH & MOZART: Works for Violin; Nigel Armstrong, violin / Sir Neville Marriner with the Colburn Orch. – Yarlung

NIGEL ARMSTRONG — BARTOK, BACH & MOZART: Works for Violin; Nigel Armstrong, violin / Sir Neville Marriner with the Colburn Orch.  – Yarlung 65007, 63:30 [Distr. by Naxos] (10/28/14) ****:

This CD of three concert works performed by the 21-year-old prodigy Nigel Armstrong is a passionate musical and sonic surprise. Armstrong was born in Sonoma, California where he began playing the violin at the age of five.

In 2010, he achieved silver medal wins in the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition held in Oslo, Norway, and the First International Violin Competition in Buenos Aires. In both competitions, he received additional prizes, including the Premio Tango and the Ole Bull and Nordheim awards in Oslo. In 2008, Armstrong received multiple prizes in the Corpus Christi International Competition, including the Howard Beebe String Award for Solo Bach Performance and the Jean Ten Have Award for Violin Performance.

Works on offer here are Bartok Sonata for Solo Violin, Bach’s Violin Sonata no. 3 in C Major, and the Korngold Violin Concerto in D Major. Three very different compositions from three periods in our musical heritage, but the combination in one program works well.

The performances in all the works are impassioned and brilliant. More remarkable, all three recordings are live to tape, so no editing. These were each one take performances with nothing fixed. It’s rare to do this, and speaks volumes about the musicianship from Armstrong and Sir Neville Marriner and the Colburn Orchestra.

The recording decisions in each piece have a very different result. The Bartok is recorded very close up at Cammilleri Hall at USC. It’s an intense recording, and every note leaps out of your speakers, The Bach was recorded in the same hall, but it is a bit more laid back. The Korngold was recorded at Royce Hall at UCLA, and to my ears it is the best of three excellent recordings. In fact, I’d have to say it is the best recording of the Korngold I’ve heard, with razor-sharp imaging. The entire disc offers excellent sonics on the CD. Kudos to recording engineer/producer Bob Attiyeh.

It is completely satisfying to hear a young artist of such talent. When you marry this superb performance with an excellent orchestra and Sir Neville Marriner, and season it with a demonstration quality recording, there is not much else to ask for. Recommended!

—Mel Martin

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