Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Arabella Steinbacher recital

A new CD for my collection featuring the admirable Arabella Steinbacher with Peter von Wienhardt illustrates my point about the difficulty of holding a listener's attention over an hour of encore pieces. There are 19 tracks on this CD, but it is difficult to listen to more than around 7-8 at one sitting, since Ms Steinbacher does not have much variety of tone, sound, bowing or approach. She plays beautifully, of course, but she simply does not have enough in her palette of violin colours to vary each of the pieces on the disc. To compound the problem, all the pieces are “South American” -- attractive in themselves, but 19 with one after another .... And Ms Steinbacher does love to sentimentalise the music wherever possible, often adopting a leisurely tempo.

The recording (2005) does not help by balancing the pianist up with the violinist. We really do not pay good money to listen to an accompanist, however good he or she may be. Too often here we see Ms Steinbacher in the background, with the piano thumping away in the foreground. In duo sonatas, of course, violin and piano should be equal (and in many pre-1800 duo sonatas, the piano often had a primary role). But these 19 pieces are not duo sonatas, and the piano should be balanced further back so we can hear Ms Steinbacher more easily. I'll continue to like Arabella Steinbacher in the Shostakovich violin concertos. But, like pretty well all modern violinists, she is not a violinist for a recital of vignettes.

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