ANDRES CARDENES, VIOLIN; IAN HOBSON, CONDUCTOR; SINFONIA VARSOVIA; SINFONIA DA CAMERA; Barber, Stock, Copland: Violin Concertos (Albany Records) ★★★★
HASSE BORUP, VIOLIN; HEATHER CONNER, PIANO; Gade: Violin Sonatas (Naxos) ★★★★
THE SUNDANCE TRIO; Music by Dring, Angerer, Bush, Sargent, Griebling-Haigh (Centaur) ★★★★
Here are three discs with Utah connections that are worth having.
Andres Cardenes is a former concertmaster of the Utah Symphony who until recently served in the same position with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
For years, he has also been active as a soloist, and he is a musician who deserves all the accolades he has been garnering for his playing. He is an amazing violinist who plays with a beautiful, rich tone. He is very musical, as well as possessing wonderful technical skills. His most recent album — with concertos by Samuel Barber, David Stock and Aaron Copland (actually an orchestration by the Utah Symphony's associate concertmaster Gerald Elias of the composer's Violin Sonata) — is a wonderful collection of works that showcases Cardenes' multifaceted artistry.
Without question, Barber's is one of the most frequently played and recorded 20th-century violin concertos, but it's always nice to have a new recording of it. And Cardenes and conductor Ian Hobson and the Sinfonia Varsovia do a wonderful job with it. They capture the passion of the opening movement, the poetic lyricism of the andante and the fiery virtuosity of the closing perpetual motion compellingly. This recording is a winner.
Stock's Violin Concerto was written for Cardenes and the 100th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Symphony and was premiered by them in 1996. The work is obviously indebted to Barber in its harmonic language and general writing for the solo instrument and the orchestra.
Cardenes gives a dynamic reading of the concerto. He makes the technical demands that Stock places on the soloist in the first and especially in the third movement seem easy. This is a potent performance in which Cárdenes shows that he is a master of his instrument.
Elias' orchestration of Copland's Violin Sonata is well thought out and executed. The work doesn't lose anything in this new version — if anything, it enhances the music. It's a very lyrical work and allows Cardenes to put his expressive side on display here. He gives a meticulously crafted reading that is nuanced and eloquent. And his playing is matched by Hobson's accompaniment, this time with the Sinfonia da Camera.
This is definitely an album that should be part of anyone's collection.
Niels W. Gade is not particularly well known outside his native Denmark, but he is a wonderful composer whose music deserves to be performed and recorded. And University of Utah artists Hasse Borup, violin, and Heather Conner, piano, have taken a step in the right direction. They recently recorded Gade's three violin sonatas in the U.'s Libby Gardner Concert Hall.
The two play these works fabulously. They capture the essence and character of each, and their ensemble playing is intuitive and finely balanced.
Gade was as facile a composer as his contemporary Felix Mendelssohn. There is a naturalness to his music that one also finds in Mendelssohn's works. Gade's music is wonderfully lyrical and fluid. But there is also depth and emotional energy, and Borup, who is Danish, and Conner do these works justice.
Each of the three sonatas is unique, and the duo brings out the best in each. The first, in A major, is Mendelssohnian in character, and they capture that with their light touch and beautifully phrased playing.
The second, in D minor, is the most profound of the three. They play it with feeling and finely molded expressiveness, and they bring depth to their reading.
The last one, in B flat major, is the most substantial of the violin sonatas. It's Schumannesque in its structure and thematic development, and Borup and Conner give a dynamic reading that captures the weightiness and depth of the work. Particularly striking is their account of the slow movement, which is exquisitely played and luminously expressive.
This is an exceptional recording and an excellent introduction to Gade's music.
The Sundance Trio (Jed Moss, piano, and Brigham Young University artists Geralyn Giovannetti, oboe, and Christian Smith, bassoon) has released an album of original works written within the past 60 years, including the fairly recent "Kaleidoscope," a piece by BYU professor David Sargent. The other works on the CD are by Madeleine Dring, Paul Angerer, Geoffrey Bush and Margaret Griebling-Haigh.
These are all delightfully unassuming, melodic and straightforward pieces. And the trio plays them wonderfully. The readings are perceptive and capture the subtleties and nuances of each score.
The ensemble play is also fabulous. It's a remarkable collaborative effort by three like-minded musicians who are equals in musicality and technical astuteness. This is a very fine album, both in the performances and in its conception.
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