The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Ernst: Complete Music for Violin and piano vol.2: Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de Rossini, Boléro, Deux romances, Souvenir du Pré aux Clercs, Pensées fugitives pt 1, Variations brillantes sur un théme de Rossini
A dazzling tribute to one of the 19th century’s real virtuoso fiddlers
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Sherban Lupu (violin) Ian Hobson (piano)
Toccata Classics TOCC 0138
Even in an age noted for its dazzling pyrotechnicians, Heinrich Ernst (1812–65) was virtually in a class of his own, as anyone who has attempted his finger-breaking solo set of variations on The Last Rose of Summer will surely testify. Most of his music has remained on the outer fringes of the repertoire, so it is particularly good news that Toccata intends to release his complete violin oeuvre on six discs, of which this is the second instalment.
With his lithe tone and sparkling, relatively small-scale sound, Sherban Lupu is closer in projection to the spiccato brilliance of Salvatore Accardo and Ruggiero Ricci than, say the cantabile plushness of Itzhak Perlman. Particularly appealing is the husky clarity of Lupu’s A string, which gives his mid-range a clarity and projection that matches to perfection the high-wire acrobatics of much of Ernst’s writing.
The two sets of variations on themes by Rossini encapsulate Ernst’s post-Paganinian sound world to perfection, with a thrilling exploitation of the upper reaches of the G string, dazzling passages of flying spiccato, high-velocity arpeggiations and merciless chains of double-stops. Given the countless thousands of notes Lupu plays here, often under supreme technical pressure, it is amazing how well he retains his musical and intonational composure, and the recording is as lucid as the playing itself. An even greater sense of imperativeness would have provided the icing on the cake.
From the February 2012 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.