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CD Review

Songs Without Words

Works for Violin & Piano

Mela Tenenbaum, violin
Richard Kapp, piano
ESS.A.Y Recordings CD 1048 1996 DDD 62:38
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Yet another wonderful violinist from the Ukraine. They seem to grow like wheat there. Then they emigrate to the U.S. The program is a box of short bon-bons chosen with great discrimination and prepared with a dedication rarely found among violinists who tackle this repertoire - far from the usual throwaway encore. She plays these works with the concentration usually reserved for the Beethoven concerto. I'm not a string player, so I can't give you the ins and outs of what she's doing. However, I do know superior music-making when I hear it. Her tone is sweet, she hits her notes clearly and mostly in tune. Beyond this, however, she's got soul, a musical personality that hugs you. I recommend especially her performance of the spiritual "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." I'm a sucker for this repertoire anyway, but her account just soars.

Richard Kapp's accompaniment fits her playing like the interlaced fingers of a handclasp. One senses a unity of musical purpose and, even in something like the flying fingerwork of the "Hora staccato," a naturalness and equality to the partnership. They focus on the music, rather than on their own virtuosity. Downright lovely.

The sound is that of a small, bright hall and the balance between the players is good.

Copyright © 1996, Steve Schwartz