The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: A fizzing collection of violin showpieces
Musicians: Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker (violin) Fabio Bidini (piano)
Composer: Sarasate, Ysaÿe, Saint-Saëns, Wieniawski

Here is a programme of fireworks and sweetmeats to showcase Sabrina-Vivian Höpcker’s technical brilliance. The gifted young German violinist’s silky virtuosity makes light of the hair-raising difficulties the music presents. Yet amid the frothy pleasures of Sarasate’s Habañera and Wieniawski’s Fantaisie brillante on themes from Gounod’s Faust, we have the more serious exploration of technique in the single movement of Ysaÿe’s Sixth Sonata, where pages of double-stopping point to Höpcker’s impeccable intonation. Almost without a pause between tracks, the piano introduces Saint-Saëns’s Havanaise, where subsequently Höpcker’s fingers fly around the fingerboard with dazzling speed, and precision is interspersed with her honeyed tone in slow passages.

A single reservation occurs with the opening to Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen at the start of the disc – it is played very slowly and with a rhythmic freedom that often leaves the piano part disjointed and suspended in mid-air. It serves to heighten Höpcker’s mercurial dexterity in the final Allegro molto vivace, however, and it is a device she uses later in the disc when slow and fast sections sit side by side.

Fabio Bidini is the responsive and well-balanced partner, but the piano, as recorded here, sounds rather hollow.