Romantic Metamorphoses – VIEUXTEMPS, ZEMTSOV, BLOCH, BIZET- Cathelijne Noorland, piano/ Dana Zemtsov, viola/ Channel Classics multichannel SACD CCS SA 37215, 72:15 (7/14/15) [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ***1/2:

Romantic Metamorphoses is an interesting concept for a disc program. It’s an exploration of music that takes as its point of departure the nineteenth-century classical romanticism of the beautiful Sonata by Henry Vieuxtemps. In contrast to this is Suite for viola and piano, Ernest Bloch’s romantically fantasized adventure through savage nature and tribes under the sun in the jungle., and Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy, which is probably the most well-known piece on the disc.

Viola soloist Dana Zemtsov writes in the liner notes “the most ‘romantic’ and personal piece on this CD is the Melodie im alten Stil by Evgeni Zemtsov. The nostalgic style in which this modern piece is written, with its lyrical melody, ornamented in Baroque style, imposed on fresh, contrasting harmonies, is just one reason to admire it. A second one is the story behind it: during his studies in Moscow the composer fell in love with a beautiful girl. She played the viola, and he wrote this beautiful piece for her instrument as a declaration of love. One year later their first child – my father – was born.”

For me, the only weak point on this disc is the transcription of the Bizet-Waxman Carmen Fantasy. While well-played, the work seems a better fit for the full orchestra it was originally designed for.

The performances by Ms. Zemtsov and Pianist Cathelijne Noorland are emotional and precise. The recording, like everything I have heard from Channel Classics is of reference quality. The soloists have a sharply delineated image in the sound field, and the microphones are placed to give us a perfect balance between instrumental detail and reverberation from the recording locale.

While the Carmen Fantasy was a miss for me, this disc has much to recommend it, and the personal connection Ms. Zemtsov has to to her grandfather’s composition makes it all a glorious experience.

—Mel Martin