GRAMOLA, 1 SACD
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Edward Elgar, the most prominent representative of the British Empire in music, completed his violin concerto, which was commissioned and premiered with great enthusiasm by Fritz Kreisler, in 1910. It is said that Elgar never spoke emotionally about his own music - with the striking exception of this one work, about which he uttered the words ,,I love it". Violinist Thomas Albertus Irnberger from Salzburg, Austria, presents this popular work here with the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of James Judd in a particularly beautiful interpretation which pays special attention to the tempo indications noted on Elgar's score. In addition, Elgar's sonata for violin and piano will be heard on this SACD, also featuring Irnberger in collaboration with the great German pianist Michael Korstick.
Thomas Albertus Irnberger
Thomas Albertus Irnberger, who was born in Salzburg in 1985, is among Austria's leading violinists. The German specialist press wrote: "like hardly any other young artist in his field, in recent years Irnberger has secured himself a leading position amongst Europe's violinist elite."
At the age of 15 in the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels he celebrated a debut that attracted widespread attention as the soloist in Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.
Since then Thomas Albertus Irnberger has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in major concert halls in Europe, Israel and in Asia.
His recordings have regularly been the recipients of prizes and top rankings from the international press. Since 2008 Thomas Albertus Irnberger has devoted himself to research into and the rediscovery of "ostracised composers" and in Israel he played the first performance of the violin concerto by Hans Gál.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
For more than seven decades the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been at the forefront of music-making in the UK. Its home base since 2004 at London's Cadogan Hall serves as a springboard for seven principal residencies as well as more than forty-five concerts per year in long-term partnership venues across the country, often in areas where access to live orchestral music is very limited. With a wider reach than any other UK large ensemble, the RPO has truly become Britain's national orchestra. International touring is vital to the Orchestra's work, taking it to many prestigious destinations worldwide. Recent engagements include concerts at the festivals of Montreux, Lucerne and Granada, an extensive tour of the USA, and visits to central Europe and the Far East, including South Korea and China.
British conductor James Judd is internationally acclaimed for his remarkable versatility, unique musicianship and charismatic presence on and off stage. Known for his exceptionally communicative style and compelling concerts, his regular performances in concert halls from Vienna to Tokyo attest to his excellent contact with audiences and musicians alike.
Following his music studies at London Trinity College he became Lorin Maazel's assistant in Cleveland. After two years in the USA he returned to Europe where he became Executive Director of the European Community Youth Orchestra, whose Chief Conductor was Claudio Abbado. He has conducted renowned orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Gewandhaus Orchester in Leipzig, Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony, NHK Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and orchestras in Dallas, St. Louis, Baltimore and Montreal.
Michael Korstick ranks among the most important German pianists of our time. His ability is documented by numerous award-winning CDs, which bear witness to the enormous breadth of his repertoire. Critics point out that the characteristic feature of his performance is the astonishing balance between brilliant virtuosity and musical intensity, reconciling strong individuality with uncompromising fidelity to the score.
|1||Konzert für Violine und Orchester h-Moll op. 6…|
|3||III Allegro molto||19:09||3.19€|
|Sonate für Violine und Klavier e-Moll op. 82|
|4||I Allegro. Risoluto||8:23||1.59€|
|5||II Romance. Andante||9:09||1.59€|
|6||III Allegro non troppo||9:26||1.59€|
It may be a personal failing, but I always find myself listening to Elgar from an outsider’s perspective. If you aren’t genetically predisposed to love Elgar as naturally as the British do, the way Americans (of a certain age) love Tin Pan Alley as a birthright, the Violin Concerto sounds windy, convoluted, rhetorically full of itself, and as overstuffed as a Victorian horsehair sofa. It’s actually none of those things, but outsiders have to overcome a layer of resistance to accommodate their ears to Elgar’s idiom, one of the few successful post-Brahms idioms that could afford to ignore the Modernist revolution.
I can hear readers muttering that this is indeed a personal failing, but it helps explain why I enjoy Elgar interpretations that are unassuming and natural, for example, Edward Gardner’s fairly recent Symphony No. 1 with the BBC Symphony (Chandos). Reviewing it, in Fanfare 41:1, I noted that reluctance toward Elgar sinks deep in this country. “The Boston Symphony archives reveal that only four conductors have presented the First Symphony since 1909, the latest being André Previn in 2000. The New York Philharmonic fares a little better with seven conductors since 1909, the most recent being Colin Davis in 2002.”
All of this is prelude to praising Austrian violinist Thomas Albertus Irnberger for his unforced and affecting new reading of the Elgar Violin Concerto. With James Judd, an American, on the podium, the only authentically British element is the Royal Philharmonic. There’s a refreshing improvisatory quality to every movement, and the general lightness of texture doesn’t diminish Irnberger’s expressiveness—in fact, I’d call it an advantage. Shorn of grand expectations, the music comes across with a lovely directness that kept drawing me in. Irnberger’s ravishing tone and the excellent recorded sound add to a highly favorable impression. Only the richness of Nikolaj Znaider with Colin Davis (RCA) and a passionate live account from Yehudi Menuhin with Adrian Boult from 1965, when the violinist was almost 50 (BBC Legends) have affected me more deeply. (If the Menuhin CD weren’t out of print, I’d nominate it for Hall of Fame status—it can still be found on the used market.)
The same sympathetic qualities are brought to Elgar’s Violin Sonata from 1918, a date that places it under the clouds of his late period. The Great War and his wife’s diagnosis of cancer were literally bringing down the world in which he had thrived and which made Elgar symbolically England’s national composer. But the sonata strives to rise above its circumstances, and there’s as much of the old triumphalism in it as Elgar could muster.
I don’t know this work very well, but it impressed me that Irnberger and pianist Michael Korstick bring so much exuberant energy to the first movement; in the lyrical second subject the violinist’s lovely tone and gracefulness in shaping phrases are very winning. The second-movement “Romance” is somewhat too sober and halting to merit that title, perhaps, but the two performers find a wealth of variety in their playing and a merged sensitivity. The flowing finale, marked Allegro non troppo, has a Brahmsian serenity about it at first. Throughout Irnberger and Korstick apply freely expressive rubato without going overboard—altogether, a splendid reading.
Since this is my first encounter with Irnberger, who was born in Salzburg in 1985, I was eager to learn more about him. He attracted attention at 15 with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in Brussels and started recording at 17. Artist’s bios are chronically inflated, but it would seem that Irnberger hasn’t had engagements with top-flight orchestras and conductors so far, despite a busy career. In 2004 he signed an exclusive contract with the Vienna-based Gramola label and has amassed a discography of over 40 discs. I can only agree with the program note’s comment that his work hasn’t reached the status it deserves.
In any event, this dark horse entry is well worth considering as a favored version of both works, particularly the Violin Concerto. Recommended warmly and with no little surprise. Huntley Dent (Fanfare Magazine)