The Strad Issue: December 2016
Description: Steinbacher takes on concert encores with flair and virtuosity
Musicians: Arabella Steinbacher (violin) Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo/Lawrence Foster
Composer: Massenet, Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Sarasate, Vaughan Williams, Waxman
Catalogue number: PENTATONE PTC 5186536

As Arabella Steinbacher says in the booklet, this CD recalls the old days when the great violinists regularly played light virtuoso repertoire. She admits to having been a little daunted by the Waxman, but she goes at it with a will, making the most of the fund of melodies, playing in high-Romantic style with a rich vibrato and abundant expression. When the going gets tough she rises to the challenges and keeps the essential light-hearted twinkle. Sarasate said that his Zigeunerweisen should be played with great liberty, in the manner of improvised gypsy music, and she takes him at his word in a performance of hand-on-heart lyrical intensity, all high emotion and tragedy until the fireworks kick in, when she fizzes.

After all this excitement The Lark Ascending swoops gracefully, infused by a gentle vibrato. Steinbacher’s Saint-Saëns is fruity and full-blooded: she milks the Havanaise for its full, passionate potential, and the Introduction and rondo capriccioso trips along, half light-hearted, half heady passion. In the ‘Méditation’ from Thaïs there are moments of sublime stillness and ecstasy, and in Ravel’s Tzigane there is some gossamer-light harmonic playing along with the gypsy passion, all dashed off with flair and true virtuosity. She is ably partnered by Foster and the orchestra in a warm, nicely balanced recording.

Tim Homfray