The Strad Issue: January 2010
Musicians: Hideko Udagawa (violin), Konstantin Lifschitz (piano)
Composer: Rachmaninoff

Violinist Hideko Udagawa brings together a fine clutch of Rachmaninoff transcriptions – by Heifetz and Kreisler, among others – as well as the composer’s original Romance in A minor. Viktor Mikhailovsky’s new transcription of the Cello Sonata op.19 makes a nicely long-drawn opening, with Udagawa bringing a rich, almost viola-like tone to its brooding Romanticism and Lifschitz making light work of the piano’s virtuosic ruminations. Udagawa has a real feel for Rachmaninoff’s delicate expressive nuances, but the effect is let down slightly by very audible position changes in the slower passages, surely more than is stylistically necessary. She also has a strange tic of altering her tuning very slightly as a note is repeated.

This said, her bell-like clarity of tone in the upper reaches of Daisies (transcr. Kreisler) is incredibly persuasive, as is her capable handling of its scampering runs. The Étude-tableau op.33 no.7 (transcr. Heifetz) is equally finely judged, with fireworks aplenty, and Vocalise (transcr. Press) is soaring and lovely, delicately phrased by both players. The effervescent flights of fancy of the fiendish Danse hongroise op.6 no.2 bring the disc to a shimmering close.

The recording balance is perfect, the violin never clouded by the density of the piano part, and the sound is brilliant and true.

Catherine Nelson