One of my first reviews for HPR was also a 24-track collection of violin miniatures – Heifetz transcriptions played by Aaron Rosand. The ensemble performing here is larger: two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, and piano (harpsichord in the Baroque selections).
The program is generous one, spanning three centuries of music, from Bach and Boccherini to Khachaturian and Kroll. Most of the tunes are the composer's best-known. If I say "Rachmaninoff," what is the first thing that comes to mind? Vocalise. "Ponce." Estrellita. You get the idea.
Though the repertoire fails the word association test, these are fine, vital performances. Andréi Korsakov (1946-1990) was a first-rate violinist; his tone is spare but well focused and sweet. The notes tell us that this ensemble was active for some eight years. Their precision is indeed oustanding. In the Bach sinfonia from Cantata #29 they approximate a peppy original instruments group. For the Lehár "Serenade" they are a dance hall band (Lehár sounds like a retrograde Kurt Weill). The flexibility and ingenuity of their adaptations seem boundless. A transcription of Rossini's "Figaro" aria ("Largo al factotum") is hilarious.
The sound quality is excellent all around, with an especially defined sound stage. Easily recommended.
Copyright © 1998, Robert J. Sullivan