This is another in Naïve’s reissue programme of twofers, drawn from their extensive back catalogue. It’s part of an artist-led marque - a previous release reviewed by me was devoted to the cellist Anne Gastinel - that conjoins disparate material in a functional slipcase. The advantage for the label is that the original packaging is maintained, the only difference being that magic card case. Thus if you have the concerto album [V5280] and the Doubles Jeux disc [V5066] you have what’s here: there are no extra tracks or bonus features.
The concerto album, recorded in 2011, is devoted to Tchaikovsky and Korngold. Fortunately we don’t get one of those blameless, somewhat superficial readings of the Tchaikovsky which render them indistinguishable from a dozen others. Korcia is a highly distinctive player with a large command of tone colour and is unafraid to launch some pretty resinous attacks. The first movement cadenza is swept through with passion, offering a foil to the earlier orchestral introduction marshalled by (fellow fiddler) Jean-Jacques Kantorow, which is quite strictly military in rhythm. The sweep to the end of the first movement is exemplary. Lyric and prayerful, the slow movement is not remotely a nervous wispy thing and come the finale Korcia is off like a shot, with trademark biting articulation, and a slight tendency to lean on phrases. His sense of gamesmanship here - in the best sense - is a real tonic.
Korcia is too personal an artist to be predictable. In any case one would never expect made-to-measure responses from him in the Korngold Concerto - and so it proves. He mixes abrasive tone with filmic legato. He is expressive and languorous in the first movement, which ensures that the sweet and the sour is held in fine balance, for those for whom the concerto admits the sour, of course (many won’t take Korcia’s approach at all). Fruity portamenti are part of this violinist’s arsenal; not the delicate quick kind either, but full blooded, almost folkloric ones that reinforce the violinist’s own affinity with, say, Bartók. Maybe he does too much too early - especially the finger position changes - in the second movement but there’s plenty of vitality and brio in the finale. Once again, you’ll never be bored by Korcia - discomfited, occasionally, perhaps, but not bored.
The companion disc was recorded much earlier, in 2006. It reveals the breadth of the violinist’s repertoire and the range of his musical colleagues, which include jazz players and a chansonnier, Jean-Louis Aubert. Korcia insinuates himself into the School of Django and Steph in the two pieces associated with the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, Minor Swing and Tears. To be more stylistically precise, Korcia is not quite in the Grappelli mould - he’s more in the line of astringent, asymmetric improvisers such as Grappelli’s colleague and contemporary, Michel Warlop. He espouses, with the composer on board, Michel Portal’s melancholic Minor Waltz, and plays Ravel’s Blues (from the Sonata) with a slightly-too-knowing nonchalance. Debussy’s Sonata is the only full-scale work in this disc, and doesn’t sound especially Gallic in tone or ethos here. The portamenti sound a touch self-regarding and the rhythmic basis of the music is fidgeted with. The finale is exaggerated in all respects. Not a success.
He’s much better and more natural in the Piazzolla-like Minor Tango, his own composition. The Wieniawski is beset with excessive vibrato usage from both Korcia and Nemanja Rudulovic, qualities that attend the four Bartók duos they play as well, which both musicians take by the scruff of its neck. The Klein Duo is better perceived, and Legrand’s Umbrellas is charmingly done. The disc ends with chansonnier interpretations from Aubert, of Denza and Massenet - the results are, to put it mildly, idiosyncratic.
Korcia himself is a thoroughly committed artist at the height of his powers. He’s a pluralist though on the face of it not an improviser in Nigel Kennedy’s class or with his stylistic range - though he has, perhaps, better taste. He’s an uneven chamber player, but as a concerto performer he has a big presence, makes a big sound and is fearless.
Masterwork Index: Korngold violin concerto ~~ Tchaikovsky
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 (1945) [24:23]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 (1878) [32:58]
Liège Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Jean-Jacques Kantorow
rec. July 2011, Salle Philharmonique de Liège
Django REINHARDT (1910-1953) - Stephane GRAPPELLI (1908-1997)
Minor Swing [2:54]
Michel PORTAL (b.1935)
Minor Waltz [3:56]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Violin Sonata; Blues [5:30]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Violin Sonata [13:18]
Henryk WIENIAWSKI (1835-1880)
Etude-caprice No.1 Op.18 [4:00]
Laurent KORCIA (b.1964)
Minor Tango [2:56]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Duos for two violins Sz.98 No.35 [1:11]: No.18 [0:48]: No.28 [2:03]: No.44 [1:45]
Gideon KLEIN (1919-1945)
Michel LEGRAND (b.1932)
Les parapluies de Cherbourg [3:23]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Luigi DENZA (1846-1922)
Si vous l’aviez compris [3:25]
Laurent Korcia (violin): Florian Niculescu (violin): Christophe Lartilleux (guitar): Jean-Philippe Viret (bass): Michel Portal (bandoneon):Michael Wendeberg (piano): Nemanja Radulovic (violin): Pierre Boussaguet (bass); Tatjana Vassiljeva (cello): Jean-Louis Aubert (singer)