The dazzling showpieces of violin legend Pablo Sarasate meet their match in Julia Fischer, one of the most sought-after musicians of her generation, delivering virtuoso pyrotechnics in a stunning recital disc. The key track is Sarasate’s most celebrated composition: Zigeunerweisen (‘Gypsy Airs’). With its heady czardas rhythms and folk flavour, it is best known as a showpiece for violin and orchestra, but Fischer and her long-standing accompanist Milana Chernyavska present it here as it was originally written, for violin and piano.
Swan Lake was the first of Tchaikovsky's three great ballets– works which added a new level of depth and sophistication to what had been a purely superficial art form. Today the music is so well-known and popular that it's impossible to comprehend the difficulties the composer experienced at early performances. Audiences found the music "too symphonic," and the dancers were put off by the prominence given to the orchestra which, they felt, distracted ballet fans from the action on stage. Of course, all of these supposed "defects" are precisely what we admire about the music today, and this elegant but exciting performance reveals the music in all of its glory.
Haydn’s six Op. 20 string quartets are milestones in the history of the genre. He wrote them in 1772 for performance by his colleagues at the Esterházy court and, unusually, not specifically for publication. Each one is a unique masterpiece and the set introduces compositional techniques that radically transformed the genre and shaped it for centuries to come. Haydn overturns conventional instrumental roles, crafts remarkably original colours and textures, and unlocks new expressive possibilities in these works which were crucial in establishing the reputation of purely instrumental music. The range within the quartets is kaleidoscopic. From the introspective, chorale-like slow movement of No. 1 via the terse and radical quartet No. 3 in G minor to the comic spirit of the fourth in D major, each of the quartets inhabits a distinct musical world. For many, this is some of the greatest music Haydn ever wrote. Playing these seminal works is one of the world’s finest young ensembles, the Doric String Quartet.
The Aeolian Quartet's epic cycle, originally released in the Seventies, was one of the gramophone's major contributions to Haydn's cause. Listening to the performances anew I find they have lost none of their freshness: they were based on the latest research, and the playing itself is always intelligent and thoughtful, with Emanuel Hurwitz's sweet-toned violin-playing a great asset throughout. (Misha Donat)