Homage – Works highlighting various collectors’ violins and violas – James Ehnes, violin & viola – Onyx CD + DVD

by | Mar 1, 2009 | CD+DVD | 0 comments

Homage = BAZZINI: La Rondo des Lutins; DE FALLA: Suite populaire espagnole; Danse espagnole; ELGAR: La Capricieuse; Salut d’amour; SCOTT: Lotus Land; DINICU: Hora staccato; RAVEL: Piece en forme de Habenera; WIENIAWSKI: Etude-caprice; SIBELIUS: Mazurka; MOSKOWSKI: Guitarre; KREISLER: Chanson Louis XIII and Pavane; TCHAIKOVSKY: Melody; VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Fantasia on Greensleeves; BENJAMIN: Jamaican Rumba; DAVID: La Nuit – James Ehnes, violin and viola/ Eduard Laurel, piano – Onyx 4038 – CD (78:00) + DVD, 16:9 color, DD 5.1 & PCM stereo (100:00+) **** [Distrib. by Harmonia mundi]:

Dr. David Fulton, co-founder of the company that produced the FoxPro database application and then later Vice-President of Database products for Microsoft, is also a dedicated musician who now spends his time playing chamber music, helping other musical organizations, and amassing one of the great collections of violins and violas in the world. This collection is showcased on this CD recording and a high quality DVD documentary by violinist James Ehnes, a super player who is fresh off a Gramophone award for his recording on the Onyx label of the Elgar violin concerto in 2008. Ehnes narrates and performs on the DVD (with a surround sound option) while demonstrating the distinct sound characteristics of these magnificent Stradivarius and Guarneri violins and violas.

What is important about this documentary is that many of these instruments have never before been recorded even though they are notably famous, and several were even locked in vaults for a long period of the 20th century. Ehnes has selected repertory pieces that he feels best helps display the unique tonal qualities of each instrument. Ehnes is a terrific player with a rich burnished sound and flawless technique, though my wife, a violin teacher, was driven to distraction by the artist’s penchant for wrapping his left thumb around the fingerboard instead of placing it underneath, an absolute no-no in standard instruction. But his on-screen persona is affable, unassuming, and even stuffed with humility despite his obvious sensational talent. He makes a fine narrator.

The music speaks for itself, all well-known and perfect for a sort of violinistic tour-de-force as we have here, and not unlike that of many other solo albums of this type. The CD sound is more intimate and close in (I liked the surround on the DVD better) but also quite acceptable. As a bonus on the CD we get a number of tracks playing the same excerpt from Bruch’s Scottish Fantasia repeatedly for each of the violins, and the Berlioz Harold in Italy for the violas. An interesting and worthwhile concept and a fine tribute to Dr. Fulton’s sensational collection. Below are listed the instruments featured in this collection and recording:

Violins:
Stradivari –
‘La Pulcelle’ (1709)
‘Baron d’Assignies’ (1713)
‘Marsick’ (1715 – James Ehnes’s standard instrument)
‘Baron Knoop’ (1715)
‘Duke of Alba’ (1719)
‘Sassoon’ (1733)

Pietro Guarneri –
‘Shapiro’ (1698)
Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesu’ –
‘King Joseph’ (1737)
‘Lord Wilton’ (1742 – Yehudi Menuhin’s violin)

Violas:
Gasparo da Salo (1650)
Andrea Guarneri –
‘Count Vitale’ (1676)
Giuseppe Guadagnini –
‘Rolla’ (1793)

— Steven Ritter

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