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Jonathan Woolf
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Duo Intermezzo: Ralf Mathias Caspers (violin); Tamaki Takeda-Caspers (piano)
rec. December 2012, Studio of Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie Herford
Full track-listing below
GENUIN GEN13544 [68:34] 

Duo Intermezzo is the name of the husband-and-wife team of violinist Ralf Mathias Caspers and pianist Tamaki Takeda-Caspers. A look at their programme may induce feelings of ennui. Here we go again with a selection of vintage charmers, competently dusted down on a smaller label and barely a ripple in the water. So many discs, so little time; but wait.
This is a seriously good team and in Ralf Mathias Caspers we have a musician of probing stylistic gifts who has clearly gone to quite a bit of trouble properly to project these pieces with a full battery of salient expressive devices. From the booklet photo (no biography) I’d say he’s middle-aged so the succulent Heifetz slides he indulges and the finger position changes and suave portamenti couldn’t have been an obvious part of his education. Nevertheless they don’t sound forced - one or two moments aside - and he breathes them naturally throughout this programme. So many recitals of this kind played by contemporary fiddlers have little or no stylistic affinities with the playing of Kreisler, Heifetz and their confreres, but Caspers is a different kettle of fish: he’s the real thing.
A fortnight I reviewed another performance of Chaminade’s charming Sérénade Espagnole which sounded limp and impassive. I can’t swear that Caspers has listened to Kreisler’s recording of it, but I’d be very surprised if he hadn’t. Here’s what was missing in that other recording - a perfumed style, colour, tonal warmth and idiomatic phrasing. That raffiné quality comes as a welcome quality in Korngold’s Tanzlied from Die tote Stadt and in Heifetz’s increasingly popular arrangement of Rachmaninoff’s song It’s Peaceful Here, Caspers proves an elegant soloist who knows when to do less. His Brahms Hungarian Dances are spirited but not too avuncular - maybe they are a touch under-characterised - but Estrellita is very lyrical and his Kreisler is pleasingly done. Both partners are quite saucy in Dinicu’s Hora Staccato where the slides are spicy and rather than Heifetz’s accumulation of tension through undeviating drive, Caspers prefers little aromatic detours, abetted by some winsome slowings down from Tamaki Takeda-Caspers. Though neither Caspers nor Heifetz sounds anything like Dinicu in his own recording. There’s too much going on in the Thaïs for my own tastes - a case of less is more here - but it’s rare that swells and expressive exaggeration spoils the party of the disc. The duo has arranged Arlen’s Over the Rainbow and it’s not too bad. The Gluck is full of emotive generosity and it’s good to hear the duo finish with Old School bravura courtesy of Sarasate.
So let’s have more from this duo. And a word to Genuin: get Ralf Mathias Caspers into the studio, book an orchestra and a conductor who knows what he’s doing, and then record the Korngold Concerto. I’ll bet my last copper coin it would be good.
Jonathan Woolf  

Full track-listing
Cecile CHAMINADE (1857-1944)
Sérénade Espagnole (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [2:13]
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Danse Espagnole, from La vida breve (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [3:39]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897-1957)
Tanzlied, Pierrot's Aria from Die tote Stadt, Op.12 [3:01]
Nicolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumblebee, from The Legend of Tsar Saltan (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [1:26]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
It's Peaceful Here from Songs, Op.21 No.7 (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [1:36]
Moritz MOSZKOWSKI (1854-1925)
Guitarre, Op.45 No.2 (arr. Pablo de Sarasate: Jascha Heifetz) [3:33]
Heinz PROVOST (1890-1959)
Intermezzo - Souvenir de Vienne [3:15]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance Number 2 (arr. Julius Klengel: Gingold) [2:52]
Hungarian Dance Number 5 (arr. Joseph Joachim) [2:52]
Hungarian Dance Number 7 (arr. Joseph Joachim: Jascha Heifetz) [2:30]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Prophet Bird (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [2:46]
Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Tambourin Chinois, Op.3 [3:50]
Manuel PONCE (1882-1948)
Estrellita (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [3:27]
Antonin DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Songs My Mother Taught Me, from Gypsy Songs, Op.55 and Slavonic Fantasy (arr. Fritz Kreisler) [4:23]
Sea Murmurs (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [1:28]
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
The Swan, from Carnival of the Animals (arr. J. Pallagi) [2:49]
Grigora ş DINICU (1889-1949)
Hora Staccato (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [2:23]
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Meditation from Thaïs (arr. L. Gallet) [4:30]
Harold ARLEN (1905-1986)
Over the Rainbow (arr. Duo Intermezzo) [2:37]
Christoph Willibald von GLUCK (1714-1787)
Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Orfeo ed Euridice (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [2:29]
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
Alt-Wien (arr. Jascha Heifetz) [2:34]
Pablo de SARASATE (1844-1908)
Gypsy Airs, Op.20 [8:27]