Dev­il­ish vir­tu­os­ity from across the ages

Steph Power is thrilled by Michael Baren­boim’s CD of ex­tra­or­di­nary works by Pa­ganini and his suc­ces­sors

BBC Music Magazine - - Instrumental -

Michael Baren­boim

Be­rio: Se­quenza VIII for vi­o­lin; Pa­ganini: Caprices for solo vi­o­lin, Op. 1 – No. 1 in E; No. 6 in G mi­nor; No. 9 in E; No. 16 in G mi­nor; No. 17 in E flat; No. 24 in A mi­nor;

Scia­r­rino: 6 Capricci;

Tar­tini: Vi­o­lin Sonata in G mi­nor (Devil’s Trill) Michael Baren­boim (vi­o­lin)

Ac­cen­tus Mu­sic ACC 30431 73:19 mins

The myth­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion of ul­tra­vir­tu­oso skill with su­per­nat­u­ral – usu­ally de­monic – pos­ses­sion is nowhere so strong as in Ital­ian vi­o­lin tra­di­tions. In this rav­ish­ingly in­tense, sec­ond solo al­bum, Michael Baren­boim dares to face the abyss to ex­plore not just tech­ni­cal but sonic and psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­tremes, link­ing reper­toire from the 18th and

19th cen­turies with the re­cent avant-garde – which Tar­tini and Pa­ganini all but be­come in his fev­er­ish re-en­vi­sion­ing along­side Be­rio and Scia­r­rino.

Sub­limely con­trolled, Baren­boim throws down the ex­pres­sive gaunt­let with play­ing as sub­tle as it is high-volt­age and ap­par­ently – para­dox­i­cally – on the edge of rea­son. Un­der­pin­ning the whole is an as­ton­ish­ing ren­di­tion of Tar­tini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata No. 5 (1713) in which Baren­boim es­chews key­board ac­com­pa­ni­ment, in­cor­po­rat­ing har­monic el­e­ments in a rad­i­cal push­ing of solo tim­bral pos­si­bil­i­ties which edge to­wards the com­poser’s mod­ernist heirs.

With the Tar­tini Sonata per­formed im­me­di­ately after Scia­r­rino’s 6 Capricci (1976) – a nether­world of trem­bling, whistling, skit­ter­ing har­mon­ics and layered melodic frag­ments – the aes­thetic par­al­lels are plainly au­di­ble; as they are be­tween the Scia­r­rino and di­rect an­tecedents, Pa­ganini’s 24 Capricci (1817). Baren­boim presents six of the lat­ter in white-hot mir­ror-im­age of the later work. Fur­ther daz­zle­ment is pro­vided in the form of Be­rio’s

Se­quenza VIII (1977).

In short, this is vi­sion­ary pro­gram­ming, breath­tak­ingly re­alised.

PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Hear ex­tracts from this record­ing and the rest of this month’s choices on the BBC Mu­sic Mag­a­zine web­site at www.clas­si­cal-mu­sic.com

Michael Baren­boim’s play­ing is as sub­tle as it is high-volt­age

Psy­cho­log­i­cal ex­tremes: Michael Baren­boim of­fers daz­zling vir­tu­os­ity

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