Martin Chalifour and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Walt Disney Concert Hall – Yarlung Records

by | Oct 21, 2011 | Classical CD Reviews

‘Martin Chalifour and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Walt Disney Concert Hall’ = STEVEN STUCKY: Tres Pinturas; WITOLD LUTASLAWSKI : Chain 2; ESA-PEKKA SALONEN: Lachen verlernt; W. AMADEUS MOZART: Violin Concerto No. 5 – Martin Chalifour, violin/Los Angeles Philharmonic/Sir Neville Marriner & Andrey Boreyko, conductors – Yarlung Records 67893 (Gold CD), 67:40 ****:
Marketing and labeling on this acoustically and musically excellent disc first struck me as a little unusual. This is not being presented as “The Los Angeles Philharmonic” performing the indicated pieces, with the indicated conductors and Martin Chalifour, violinist.  The sense that this is more of a personal collaboration between Chalifour, Bob Attiyeh of Yarlung Records and the forces of the LAP is apparently the case, and with very fine results.
Yarlung Records, out of Los Angeles, is a small high-end recording company specializing in audiophile quality recordings. This disc, for example, uses the “Yarlung Special Alloy” with a gold coating and virgin polycarbonate, pressed in Germany. The net result is, indeed, very clear and with a rich, ‘live’ sound. Yarlung had previously issued a gold CD with Martin Chalifour as the first ever commercial recording made in Walt Disney Concert Hall. I have seen concerts in the WDCH on several occasions and I can attest that both sonically, as well as aesthetically, it is genuinely a must experience road trip for classical music lovers.  The quality on this recording is indeed very good.
The true symbiosis involved in this recording is apparent too. Martin Chalifour, who is a wonderful violinist, has been the Principal Concertmaster of the LA Phil since 1995. He has worked closely with Bob Attiyeh and Yarlung Records before and their mutual attention to performance and sound quality is evident. The composers involved, Stucky, Lutaslawski, Salonen and Mozart carry personal meaning for Chalifour and the modern era representatives have commonality through the LAP. Salonen, as both the former music director of the Phil as well as a composer of note, is a friend of both Steven Stucky and Witold Lutaslawski, who, in turn, are strong advocates of each other’s music.
The music is the other expected “star” of this recording. Stucky’s Tres Pinturas (Three Paintings) began its creation as an orchestral work, written for the Chicago Symphony. Originally a five movement work, inspired by the work of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo and titled Pinturas de Tamayo, the violin and piano transcription was written specifically at the request of Martin Chalifour. This is a very fine – literally picturesque – work that conjures up strong imagery and makes me want to hear the orchestral original, as well.
Lutaslawski’s Chain 2 is one of a number of works that the composer labeled for its technique using musical ideas and textures that overlap from one piece to another and could be seen and heard as a larger whole. Chain 2 can be seen as a four-movement violin concerto; in this case culminating with a chaconne. The work, which has been recorded before by various ensembles, is exciting to listen to and very well played by Chalifour and the forces of the LA Philharmonic, here conducted by Andrey Boreyko.
This work leads well into Lachen verlernt (Laughing Unlearned) by Esa-Pekka Salonen. This work is also, essentially, a chaconne that takes its title from a line in Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Salonen indicates that the title and reference are also intended to portray an audience find emotions that have been lost or lie latent in the listening experience. The chaconne structure lies within a repeated harmonic progression while the violin melody gets progressively more frantic and technical. The work, for solo violin, ends with a short, restful coda after all the frenzy and is a wonderfully energetic work, performed superbly by Chalifour.
This very nice collection ends in a completely different direction, the Concerto No. 5 by Mozart. This, his last violin concerto, was probably written when Mozart was but nineteen years old. Characteristically, the melodic patterns in the opening allegro and the middle adagio are almost a premonition of some of his most famous opera arias. The closing rondo contains some pretty rowdy oriental-sounding flourishes, similar to those found in The Abduction from the Seraglio, and most have surely raised eyebrows in 1775. Martin Chalifour plays with sensitivity and verve here and is very tastefully accompanied by the LA Philharmonic, this time led by the esteemed Mozart interpreter Neville Marriner.
This disc caught my attention for several reasons. First, I absolutely love Walt Disney Concert Hall and am a huge fan of the LA Phil. I also greatly admire the music of Steven Stucky and Salonen, whom I have had the pleasure of seeing as composer-conductor several times. I have therefore also had the pleasure of hearing the wonderful playing of Martin Chalifour on those occasions. I loved the beauty and eclectic nature of this collection but I also found the recording and engineering of the Yarlung group to be a new and pleasant experience.  I think that this disc should appeal to anyone who loves excellent violin playing, excellent sound quality, good music or just loves almost anything connected with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, as I do!
—Daniel Coombs