Thursday, 24 September 2015

Volker Reinhold Plays Sarasate: Volume 2

When it comes to great works in classical music, the German nations are pre-eminent. The Russians and the Slavonic nations, the Italians, and the French all have rich histories with many important works to their credit. Somehow, the Spanish and the Spanish-speaking nations rarely figure in major works or composers, with just a handful of names such as de Falla or Granados, as well as having few major orchestras or international soloists (not forgetting Casals, however). My favourite Spanish composer by far is Pablo de Sarasate, and I have written often in this blog concerning my love for his music. He wrote his music to play himself, of course, and he was a major virtuoso of the violin. Unlike Paganini or Ernst, however, his music is frequently virtuosic without driving violin technique to its very limits (and sometimes beyond). Sarasate's music reflects his elegant and sophisticated style of playing, and an hour spent listening to Sarasate's music is an hour well spent, so I usually seize upon any new recording of Sarasate's music that comes along; not much use dreaming about hearing his music live in a modern concert hall, alas. My latest seizure is the second volume in Volker Reinhold's traversal of all Sarasate's opera fantasies, a popular formula in the nineteenth century with ten minutes or so spent improvising on the themes from major operas of the time.

Once again, Herr Reinhold is a pleasure to listen to as he plays music he so evidently enjoys and he is well partnered by Ralph Zedler; one can also admire Sarasate's writing in the piano accompaniments which are far from the routine plunking chords so often found in salon musical accompaniments. I passed an enjoyable 77 minutes with Reinhold and Zedler. A cross-reference to Tianwa Yang was interesting, however. Her eight CDs of Sarasate's music also contain all the pieces on Herr Reinhold's two CDs of opera fantasies. In every piece I looked at, Reinhold was appreciably slower than Miss Yang; Tianwa is more mercurial, Reinhold more deliberate. The Chinese has a superb sense of rhythm and of rubato, and beside her and her pianist (Markus Hadulla) the Germans can sound a little four-square at times. And Tianwa's Vuillaume violin sounds better than Reinhold's in the higher registers (as recorded here). No matter with comparisons; Sarasate's evergreen music is always a pleasure to listen to and I will continue to seize every opportunity to hear it played by expert violinists with a sense of style.

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