SARASATE Transcriptions = MOZKOWSKI: Guitarra; CHOPIN: 3 Waltzes; 2 Nocturnes; GOUNOD: Faust Souvenirs; GUIGNON: Allegro; MONDONVILLE: La Chasse; LECLAIR: Violin Sonata, Op. 9, No. 3: Sarabande and Tambourin; HANDEL: Largo from Xerxes; SENAILLE: Allegro; BACH: Air from Suite No. 3 in D; RAFF: La fee d’amour Op. 67 – Tianwa Yang, violin/ Markus Hadulla, piano – Naxos 8.572709, 79:46 (1/28/14) ****:
Violinist Tianwa Yang complements her four-CD survey of the music of Spanish virtuoso Pablo Sarasate (1844-1908) with (rec. 2010 and 2012) fourteen transcriptions that meant to display that artist’s command of technique and exquisite intonation as well as bravura effects. Several of the transcriptions come directly from the keyboard repertory of equally potent piano composers, such as the striking Guitarra of Moritz Moszkowski and the various pieces by Frederic Chopin. Sarasate transposes the Chopin Waltz No. 8 in D-flat to A-flat better to suit his instrument. The A Minor Waltz lends itself to violinist Yang’s own pure legato quite effectively. The faster waltzes, however, restrain a definite urge to sizzle. The elongated trills and high notes in the Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 testify to a poetic temperament in all principals. For any number of self-indulgent bravura effects in the Romantic “old school,” we have the D-flat Major Nocturne, Op. 27, No. 2.
If the bravura aspects of Sarasate’s art and Yang’s own playing have remained relatively subdued, they make their presence known through the rare Souvenirs de Faust (1863), fashioned by Sarasate, aged nineteen. In his liner notes, Sarasate scholar and eminent violinist Joseph Gold – a renowned Heifetz pupil – mentions the success of the martial Garden Scene, rife with double and triple stops. But the huge Waltz, too – enamored by Liszt – provides lilts and sparks of no mean aptitude. The flute qualities of Sarasate’s own 1724 Stradivarius E string became a constant source of pride, calling for writing that showcases the effect. Later on the disc, in the Bach transcription from the Suite No. 3, the “Air on the G String,” we have a masterly exhibition of this trump card.
The ensuing six tracks explore the refined delicacies of the Baroque era, particularly the French violin school. A pert Allegro from Jean-Pierre Guignon (1702-1775) remains of dubious authenticity, and this scoundrel may well have murdered his esteemed rival Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764). That gifted composer has representation in the Sarabande and Tambourin from his D Major Sonata, works that testify to a noble spirit and refined taste. Separating these two historical (and even melodramatic) figures is a hearty piece, La Chasse, of Jean-Joseph de Mondonville (1711-1772), a member of the French Chapel Royal. With the familiar Largo from Handel’s Xerxes, and the aforementioned Air of Bach, violinist Yang demonstrates her long and vibrant singing line in a bit of German repertory. The other rarity among the French masters is a stately Allegro from Jean-Baptiste Senaille (1687-1750), a member of the Twenty-Four Violins of the King.
If the Bach Air provided Sarasate with his favorite encore, the unusual La fee d’amour of Joachim Raff (1822-1882) often informed his major concert repertoire. Raff’s music has been credited with anticipating that of Sibelius and Richard Strauss. The seventeen-minute Fairy of Love tests, punishes, and celebrates the artistry of both violin and piano. In its melodic moments, the piece could be attributed to late Mendelssohn or early Bruch. Rhapsodic and meandering in familiar tropes and harmonies, the piece more often proves a diversion for the concert salon. The later minutes could serve for a silent movie soundtrack. Yang shows off some richly harmonized double stops and throaty glissandos, and pianist Hadulla – who has been a faithful, velvet glove in these excursions – has his own hands full of liquid triplets and staccato runs. After a stunning cadenza, some of whose effects we know from the Mendelssohn Concerto, the piano rejoins Yang for presto finale in light touches guaranteed to peel some paint off the walls.