The art of violin playing is alive and well, especially based on the virtuosity and volume of new artists along with the refined performances of old favorites. These are just a few of the incredible releases I recommend you revisit -- or hear for the very first time; these picks are great listening for yourself or perhaps that someone special in your life!
- French Fantasy – music of Debussy, Franck, and Saint-Saens
Maria Bachmann, violin; Adam Neiman, piano
A late release from Bridge, this new CD from Maria shows her at her prime, with delightful colors and precise articulations. The three main dishes from the French masters are rich, and are complimented by an opening appetizer of Heifetz’ arrangement of Beau Soir.
- French Impressions – music of Saint-Saens, Franck and Ravel
Joshua Bell, violin; Jeremy Denk, piano
Last January, Sony released the latest from duo partners and friends, Josh Bell and Jeremy Denk – a meat and potatoes sonata disc recorded at the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona. Not as nuanced as Bachmann/Neiman, it offers a fresh and lively reading of these masterpieces.
- Bach and Beyond, Volume 1 – music by Bach, Ysaye, Saariaho, and Mazzoli
Jennifer Koh, violin
Based on her widely acclaimed solo recitals in NYC, Jennifer Koh has recorded solo works of Johann Sebastian Bach with interesting works of the 20th and 21st centuries. This first release offers two partitas by Bach in a nice reading. More interesting is Koh’s selections of Missy Mazzoli and Kaija Saariaho, and to a lesser degree, Eugen Ysaye’s Second Sonata.
- Air: The Bach Album – music by Johann Sebastian Bach
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin; English Chamber Orchestra, Steven Mercurio
Fresh, energetic, and playing a duet with herself, who could ask for anything more? New arrangements of old favorites top off this must have album of Johann Sebastian Bach!
- Silfra – improvisations
Hilary Hahn, violin; Haushka (Volker Bertelmann), prepared piano
The most daring album of any violinist this year is by Hilary Hahn. Bravo to this young woman to explore new sounds and experiment with Haushka; Hahn is influenced by producer Valgeir Sigurosson (of Bjork fame)! A grand departure from a normally safe violinist, this shows a very daring and creative side of Hilary – bravo!
Itzhak Perlman, violin; Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, Cantor
What a delight. What a celebration. When you think a highly regarded musician has done it all and explored the repertoire, Itzhak Perlman does it again. He has told great stories about how this release came together, and the result is magical. You don’t have to be a violin fan, or Jewish to really groove to this release.
- American Classics – traditional and original works for violin & piano
Mark O’Connor, violin; Rieko Aizawa, piano
These are original and enchanting tunes that only a kind soul like Mark O’Connor could play or collect into one easy going release. Styles vary, but the technique and musicality shine whether it is a waltz, hoedown, or hymn! Perfect music for your dinner party, relaxing, or whenever you want to smile.
- Prokofiev – violin works
Janine Jansen, violin; London Philharmonic, Vladimir Jurowski; Itamar Golan, piano; Boris Brovtsyn, violin
Lush, vibrant, and insightful are these readings of Sergei Prokofiev. Jansen lends just the right bit of darkness and light to Prokofiev’s Second Concerto. The chemistry is balanced and nuanced for the f minor sonata, and what a duo for Jansen and Brovtsyn in the playful and difficult C Major Sonata. This disc shows Janine’s maturity and expertise in all that she touches, whether it is in solo or chamber music playing.
- Vivaldi: Concertos for the Emperor – music by Antonio Vivaldi
Andrew Manze, violin; English Concert
When you can hear something new in an old favorite, you know there is something special about the performance. Andrew Manze always brings a great perspective on beloved works, and with this set there are beautiful interpretations -- as it might have sounded back in Vivaldi’s time.
- A Time For Us – film music for violin and ensemble
Angele Dubeau, violin; La Pieta
Music is often associated with memories, and I bet you will remember the first time you play this album, just as you will remember the great scenes of these movie themes! Original arrangements for Dubeau and La Pieta are tailor made and you can hear it in every note! Silky sounds, toe-tapping, and heavy sighs will pull you back and forth, from dramatic and passionate scores, which you will want to play over and over.