Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

Music for violin, two violins and violin and piano.

Amir (violin), Marat Bisengaliev (violin), John Lenehan (piano)
Black Box BBM1042
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WIENIAWSKI          Polonaise no. I in D op4
TCHAIKOVSKY      Mélodie op 42 no.3
VIEUXTEMPS         Tarantelle
MILSTEIN               Paganini variations
PROKOFIEV           March (Love of Three Oranges)
BERIOT                   First movement (Duo Op 57 no.3)
BRUSILOVSKI       The Wild Horse
BACEWICZ             Folk Dances

Amir, who was thirteen when he made these recordings, hails from Kazakhstan, as does the second violinist, Marat Bisengaliev. The composer Lygerly Brusilovski whose Wild Horse appears on this disc comes from the same country. his piece is very rewarding. Amir has a good technique but, sadly, no maturity in his playing as yet. But, then I was 13 once. Largely the disc is of showpieces and when Amir becomes excited the music suffers from a very unmusical attack and almost an abuse of the violin. He is at his best in the glorious Folk Dances of the superb Grazyna Bacewicz and there he does show some welcome tenderness. The Wieniawski is well played but it has become so familiar that almost every virtuoso plays it and plays it well. The Tchaikovsky was a little too quick for my taste. The music did not breathe. I am sure that a mature player would have given it more space. It needs space. The Tarantelle of Henri Vieuxtemps had a few smudgy moments. The splendid Milstein variations were hacked and it was consequently somewhat painful at times. I can just imagine the dust flying out of the strings and the hair on the bow trailing in all directions.

But it is the Bacewicz which redeems this disc. Music of real character, beautifully written and played and the disc has the experienced John Lenehan. The de Bériot duets were well realised as well, although this sort of music is two-a-penny and Shostakovich's duets were delightful.

I wish that we had a major work on this disc. That is always a better test of playing, ability and character.

David Wright




Peter Woolf has also listened to this disc

This thirteen year old has already dropped his other names, a fashion of yore, and a dubious marketing ploy. We are told he played a Bach concerto in public when he was seven. He hails from Kazakhstan where, by all accounts, earlier more romantic playing styles still prevail, but is photographed outside the Wigmore Hall in London to remind us that he is a seasoned performer, already well travelled (he has appeared in UK with the Philharmonia Orchestra).

A group of virtuoso pieces demonstrate his flair and impressive command of the instrument. It is best not to play too many of them straight off.

There are two other groups which both turn out to be duets. These look interesting on paper; they aren't. The folk dances for violin duo by the relatively well known composer Grazyna Bacewicz (though we are told she isn't) are listed in New Grove as Easy Pieces. They are played here with Marat Bisengaliev, a violinist relative of the youngster, who is known for his 'open expressivity in contrast to the cooler and more restrained style' of late twentieth century violinists. They are very bland and uncharacteristic of this interesting and quite important Polish composer, as are six duets with piano accompaniment by Shostakovich. Those do not feature in the New Grove listing at all (we'll see whether that omission is rectified in the revised edition soon to appear) and they are not really worth collecting as rarities by Shostakovich enthusiasts.

The presentation is not up to Black Box's usual standard. Total time is not supplied. It can probably be presumed (but is not stated) that Amir plays on every track? The insert notes (tiny print and a lot of empty space) tell us almost nothing about individual compositions, and the split photo on the first text page is rather a mess - as if the scanner had gone wrong.

All that said, young Amir is indeed an exciting talent, seemingly very confident, with natural musicianship, deeply instilled by growing up in a musical family, yet with a mind of his own, and not too reliant upon his expert accompanist John Lenehan, who goes along with his delightfully impulsive rubato and high-wire risk taking (he doesn't fall off!). The generous use of portamenti take us into a bygone age and make one regret that this legitimate expressive device has been to a large extent rejected in Western violin playing.

A second CD will be awaited with interest to discover how Amir's mentors plan to shape his career.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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