Plenty of musicality but perhaps a lack of virtuoso pizzazz

Elisabeth Turmo: Fairy Tales

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: Plenty of musicality but perhaps a lack of virtuoso pizzazz

Musicians: Elisabeth Turmo (violin, Hardanger fiddle) Elena Toponogova (piano)

Works: Works by Bull, Frolov, Halvorsen, Kreisler, Madsen, Medtner, Viken and Zimbalist

Catalogue number: QUARTZ QTZ2157

There’s a sense of otherworldly contemplation to this debut disc from Norwegian violinist Elisabeth Turmo and Russian-born pianist Elena Toponogova, something that feels particularly fitting for the release’s theme of magic and myth. Indeed, Turmo delivers especially sensitive, sometimes touchingly fragile accounts of the opening collection of music from her homeland: she’s alive to the idiosyncratic twists and turns of Ole Bull’s A Mountain Vision, for example, in a spirited but unshowy performance, and points up the folk inspirations behind Halvorsen’s First Norwegian Dance in a bright performance full of captivating detail – and one that looks ahead to her four supple, flowing, expressively ornamented solo pieces for Hardanger fiddle (Halvorsen’s devilish Fanitullen, in particular, works itself into quite a frenzy).

But if there’s a sense of care and restraint that breathes fresh life into these Norwegian works, it works less persuasively in the four pieces from pianist Toponogova’s birth country that close the disc. The musicians are never less than fluent in these virtuoso arrangements by Kreisler, Zimbalist and Frolov of tunes from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade and Le coq d’or, and Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, but with their unhurried unfolding and rather cool restraint, the accounts end up rather better-behaved than their arrangers probably intended. Even if the disc concludes with charm rather than spectacle, however, it provides an enjoyable survey of some little-heard repertoire.