Leila Josefowicz in Recital = BEETHOVEN: Violin sonata No. 10 in G, Op. 96; BRAHMS: Sonata-Movement; RAVEL: Violin Sonata in G; MESSAIEN: Theme and Variations; GREY: San Andreas Suite; SALONEN: Lachen verlent for Violin -John Novacek, p. – Warner Classics

by | Jun 24, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Leila Josefowicz in Recital = BEETHOVEN: Violin sonata No. 10
in G, Op. 96;BRAHMS: Sonata-Movement in C Minor; RAVEL: Violin Sonata
in G; MESSAIEN: Theme and Variations; GREY: San Andreas Suite for
Violin solo; SALONEN: Lachen verlent for Violin Solo/John Novacek,
piano – Warner Classics 2564 61948-2  40:41; 45:13 (Distrib.

I must confess that, having seen and heard violinist Leila Josefowicz in
concert in Atlanta some years ago,  I was not too favorably impressed,
writing her off as another in a long string of virtuosos who turn the
Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos into Paganini. But it would
seem that Ms. Josefowicz, who sports a lovely-sounding 1724 Guarneri del
Gesu instrument, has matured as an artist and musical thinker; and this
recital, taped 22-25 January 2005 at the American Academy of Arts and
Letters, is an intelligent blend of old and new impulses played with
fervor and grace by a pair of like-minded professionals.

The New has representation in the work of Mark Grey, a West coast
composer, who created his San Andreas Suite especially for Josefowicz.  In
three descriptive movements, marked Wonder Years, Clear Lake, and
Eruption, the piece captures alternating currents of light and dark
sonorities, with the middle section’s communicating an Eastern/Oriental
influence the composer attributes to the Asian community thriving in the
San Francisco environs. The Eruption sequence has an earthy impetus
derived from rock music sources. Composer-conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen
penned Lachen verlernt (Laughing Un-learned), his homage to Schoenberg‚s
Pierrot Lunaire, in 2002. Utilizing repeated, ostinato figures in the
manner of a chaconne, this severe and at times dark piece gains in
momentum as it proceeds, a reminiscence of Bolero by way of Bach
harmonization. The opening selection, a relatively early work by Olivier
Messaien, has classical refinements in procedure after a simple melodic
kernel presents itself. Combining rhythmic variation with Webern’s
tendency to pulverize the original materials, Messiaen still manages to
elicit a few tender sentiments from his sometimes static material – then
moving to a kind of religious fervor in the slow finale that may well
suggest a quiet epiphany.

The Old has its representatives in Beethoven, Brahms, and Ravel, the last
of whom avowed a kind of antipathy between violin and piano; but whatever
antagonism exists in the parts is concealed in the bluesy and jazz-like
riffs the two instruments share, often evoking the sonority of the G Major
Piano Concerto.  The often lean de-sentimentalized sound has Josefowicz
working the tip of the bow, eschewing the big, luxuriant lushness for an
ironic understatement, a touch of the decadent cabaret. The obsessive
character of the Perpetuum mobile has Josefowicz working her magic as she
would for the same composer’s Tzigane. Beethoven’s G Major Sonata (1812)
has an almost Schubertian sense of wandering; I am reminded that Oistrakh
also chose to make this piece a recital debut for American tours in 1956.
Here, Josefowicz eschews the bravura for an intimate, parlando style that
is quite persuasive in its intimacy. On the Brahms C Minor Scherzo,
rather, rests the burden of Josefowicz’s brilliantine; the repeated
urgings on G, akin to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, along with the doublings
at the octaves and the sixth degree of the scale, are enough to convince
us that the pyrotechnical fiddler is always there if we need her.

–Gary Lemco

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