INKPOT#69 CLASSICAL MUSIC REVIEWS: PAGANINI The Paganinis at Home (ESS.A.Y)
(1782 – 1840)
Serenata for two violins and guitar
Sonata I for violin and guitar
Terzetto Concertante for Viola, Cello and Guitar
Terzetto for Violin, Cello and GuitarMela Tenenbaum violin/viola
Alex Tenenbaum violin
Dorothy Lawson cello
Paul Bernand guitar
ESS.A.Y Recordings CD1053
by Ong Yong Hui
Subtitled “An evening of casual virtuosity”, this disc explores some of Paganini’s seldom-heard works from his chamber output. Of these, his sonatas for violin and guitar are more well-known, and there is a particular emphasis on the guitar in most of his chamber works, products of Paganini’s fling with the instrument in his youth. Nonetheless, there is probably not much cause for an inflated controversy in the notes about the identity of the guitarist if Paganini played the violin part in these works.
Despite all the attention to the role of the guitar in the music, the guitar part has a surprisingly low profile with Paul Bernand’s introverted style of playing. Unlike the loud and domineering violin voice, the guitar seems to have no wish to vie for attention. One has to listen more attentively to hear the guitar clearly in its solo parts and the instrument is very non-intrusive while playing a supportive role.
Solos and prominent parts for the guitar feature in the two Terzettos but generally the guitarist takes an understated approach to them. Although he does not shine out on his own, he does choose to blend harmoniously into the ensemble. With the abundant cantabile writing for the singing quality of the violin and cello, the two instruments here need no prompting to show off their legato playing.
The Sonata is something that is quite recognisable as distinctively Paganinian, featuring his characteristic cantabile writing style for the violin and a bright cheerful quality to the music. The partnership between Mela Tenenbaum and Paul Bernard work well to inject into the piece a fun and lively spirit. The additional violin in the Serenata is equally effective. The structure of the two works is not conventional, the Serenata having only one movement and the Sonata two, but happily they are just as appealing to me whatever the case.
The two Terzettos are the longer works in the album, each lasting over twenty minutes in contrast to the few for the Serenata and the Sonata, Strangely, it seems as if Paganini was showing that he couldn’t handle more instrumental parts in a piece than two (one can probably count the whole orchestra as a single instrument in his concertos, given their uniform part).
There is a tendency to isolate the various parts or to pair the instruments in the playing rather than having them play tutti. For most of the time, either the violin/viola or the cello (instruments capable of sustaining a melodic line) will be playing with the guitar supporting, and sometimes the guitar will be featured alone. Thus, one can be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the music is either a violin or cello sonata if someone started listening in the middle of the music.
Besides the strange isolation of the instrumental parts mentioned above, Paganini also shows his inexperience in chamber music writing with the weak link of ideas among the Terzettos and their movements. With the music proceeding without much change of tone or building to climaxes, it pretty much breezes by without notice. The trio however does well to bring out the best of it, playing with cheerful enthusiasm, making things much more enjoyable than what the notes seem capable of.
All in all, this recording is very light fare that should best be reserved for use as unintrusive background music. This is music that only goes as far as being charming ear-candy at best. The Sonatas for Violin and Guitar are attractive enough to deserve some investigation though, their merit probably accounting for the number of recordings out at the stores for it.
Ong Yong Hui have an obsession with racer bikes in one piece composite carbon fibre, aerobars attached and wheels with no spokes.
391: 17.1.1999 Ong Yong Hui
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