Rodolphe Kreutzer is remembered for two reasons
– he was one of the founding fathers of the modern school of
violin playing and as the dedicatee of the Sonata by
Beethoven which bears his name. He must have been some player
for these works are no easy stroll in the park and as a composer
he is fully in control of his material knowing what to do with
it, and where he was going.
The E minor Concerto begins in a most
dramatic and forthright manner, and Kreutzer never allows himself
to waver from the path he has chosen. It's exciting and exacting
stuff and it's followed by a tender slow movement named Romance
which gives one some rest before the immense high spirits
of the finale. If the first movement is Beethovenian then this
light-earted finale is Mozart at his joyous best, but with a
serious conclusion. This is a real find, it's not a masterpiece,
and it won't knock certain concertos from their rightful place
in the standard repertoire but who wouldn't want to hear such
a well conceived and tuneful piece?
As befits a work in D major the 13th Concerto
is a grand affair, very serious and purposeful; even both themes
of the first movement have the same hauteur about them; there
is little contrast. There is much bravura writing in the first
movement and lots of interaction between soloist and orchestra.
The central adagio is of operatic aria dimensions – a big song
for a full voiced soloist – which doesn't outstay its welcome.
The finale is a jaunty dance, with lovely interjections from
the soloist, it's absolutely delightful, and thoroughly entertaining.
The ghost of Mozart hovers over both pieces but they are none
the worse for that – there are some very enjoyable things and
what is most welcome is that here are two works which entertain
and show really good humour. Neither work comes anywhere near
Beethoven or Mozart in content but nonetheless they work in
their own way and should be heard.
The Variations on Nel cor piu non mi sento,
and Song of the peasant, both for violin and ensemble,
are more obviously virtuoso vehicles rather than serious musical
compositions, and after the Concertos they are a bit of a let
down, but there is nothing wrong in letting your hair down after
the serious business is over.
Saskia Lethiec is a sweet-toned soloist who obviously
feels sympathy for these works and gives excellently committed
and persuasive performances of the music. Jose Ferreira Lobo
directs straightforward performances from his orchestra, which
are somewhat lack lustre when compared to our soloist, but they
do the business, as they say, and give a good enough show for
us to know what the music is about. In the smaller pieces the
Ensemble Instrumental du Conservatoire de Versailles give discreet
support. The recording is good, if a trifle thick in the middle
textures, but it has a good balance between soloist and band.
The mangled English in the booklet is a joy – for instance,
when listening to the music I never realised that the finale
of the 9th Concerto, "...presents an almost nostalgic
refrain, with its tied groupettos, while the couplets, in turn
staccato and dotted, lightened by the major mode, circling around
great intervals or increasing the virtuosity by formibably–virtuoso
sextolets, bring a more solar lighting.". Now I know better.
This disk is worth investigating for the sake of two very interesting
and enjoyable concertos, and some fine fiddling.