CD review: Echoes of Paris
This imaginative recital disc dips into the bubbling cauldron of artistic ideas that distinguished Paris in the early decades of the 20th century, drawing on sonatas by Debussy and Poulenc, and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella, to illustrate the breadth and variety of expression that the city could foster and entertain. Prokofiev also nudges himself in because of his Parisian exile in the 1920s and ’30s, though his Second Violin Sonata – a reworking of the Flute Sonata – was written when he was back in Russia in the 1940s.

Hand in hand with the intelligence of the programming go the wondrous playing of the violinist Augustin Hadelich and his like-minded pianist Robert Kulek. These are exceptionally compelling performances, sharply defined in character, immaculately articulated, rich in interpretative acumen and blessed with extraordinary finesse. Hadelich has a marked and dynamic capacity to identify and convey the qualities that render each composer so individual, the juxtaposition of Poulenc’s Sonata and Stravinsky’s Pulcinella offering perhaps the most graphic example. The Poulenc, dedicated to the memory of Federico García Lorca, has a dramatic intensity allied to that winsome tunefulness and sanguine harmony that were Poulenc’s stocks in trade. The Stravinsky, here played in the 1925 transcription that the composer made in collaboration with the violinist Paul Kochanski as opposed to the usual Samuel Dushkin one, is, by contrast, spare, astringent, grippingly incisive and vibrant of colour. The players also get right to the nub of Debussy’s Sonata and the Prokofiev on a disc that cannot be recommended highly enough.

Outstanding musicianship separates Augustin Hadelich from the pack (Flying Solo)
Augustin Hadelich (born 1984) has already won acclaim for his recordings of Haydn and Telemann. Now he tackles a programme of technically challenging works, one, moreover, where each composer presents different difficulties. He meets and surmounts all obstacles, yet it's not technical wizardry that most impresses but his musicianship. He makes the musical sense of each piece crystal clear, and his playing has an inner life; each phrase, each note, is felt as it's played. The Bartók third movement, "Melodia", has constant expressive variation of tone colour and emphasis, and the sonata's Hungarian character comes out particularly strongly, due to Hadelich's idiomatic rhythmic sense.
In the Fourth Paganini Caprice, Hadelich is unusually successful in integrating the sustained music with the intervening brilliant passages, and the Ninth Caprice is delightfully buoyant - it's good to hear this piece as Paganini wrote it, without the traditional added harmonics near the end. Of the Ysaÿe sonatas, No 3 is given an appropriate sweeping narrative character, while in No 5 Hadelich maintains a beautiful tranquillity for the initial portrayal of dawn and, in the following "Danse rustique" catches exactly the poised rhythmic quality the composer asks for. The Zimmermann makes a spectacular conclusion to the recital; Hadelich has clearly grasped the full import of its intense, climactic final toccata.


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