Monday, 18 April 2016

A new collection of works for violin and piano proves an impressive showcase for Romanian violinist Bogdan Văcărescu

Romanian violinist Bogdan Văcărescu http://bogdan.vacarescu.com is a graduate of the Conservatoire of Music in Bucharest and the Royal Academy of Music in London and has won national and international violin and chamber music competitions. A student of Beno Schwartzman, Paul Ratz and Gyorgy Pauk he has toured internationally since his teens, performing for two years with the World Youth Orchestra, as leader of George Enescu's String Orchestra, with his own chamber music ensembles and as a soloist.

He has toured most European countries, Israel, North America, Australia and Japan and has appeared at the Athenaeum in Bucharest, the Romanian National Radio Hall, Sydney Opera House, The Forum in Melbourne, The United Nations Concert Hall in New York, New Morning in Paris, London’s Royal Albert Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Purcell Room, Kings Place and Vortex Jazz Club, Glastonbury and Edinburgh festivals.

Văcărescu has recorded for television and radio across the world on Romanian National Radio and Television, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 4, BBC Wales and Manchester, ABC Australia, performing Bach Sonatas and Partitas, Paganini Caprices and solo works. He has also recorded soundtracks for films and documentaries and is equally comfortable performing rock, Balkan and traditional music as he is on the classical stage. He has collaborated with Nigel Kennedy, Paprika, The Cat Empire, Graffiti Classics, She’Koyokh and as a free-lancer with many successful ensembles in the UK.

Bogdan Văcărescu’s new CD from the New Europe Society http://neweurope.org.uk/media, entitled Violin and Piano Thrillers, with pianist Julian Jacobson www.julianjacobson.com  brings together works for violin and piano by Enescu, Brahms, Dvořák, Jenő Hubay, Chopin, Sarasate, Beethoven and Antonio Bazzini.

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There is a sense of intense restrained energy as the Assez mouvementé of George Enescu’s Sonata for piano and violin Op. 6 No. 2 in F minor opens, soon unleashed as these two fine musicians push quickly forward.  Bogdan Văcărescu brings a very fine tone especially in the upper register where it never loses sweetness. There is some especially fluent playing from Julian Jacobson full of expansive textures. These two fine musicians bring beautifully controlled dynamics as they move through some lovely quieter moments, alive to every little detail. There is a lovely freedom to this violinist’s playing drawn surely from his experience performing in a variety of ensembles and in varied genres.

Tranquillement flows naturally from the quieter coda of the first movement, Văcărescu finding a lovely rhythmic flow, finely accompanied by Jacobson. He finds a great passion and intensity as the music develops with some fiery playing with fluent, rippling passages from Jacobson. The piano leads a quieter, gentler passage to which the violin joins to move through some quite exquisite passages to the hushed coda.

Vif has a rhythmic spring as the music moves ahead, developing more robust, incisive passages. Văcărescu’s ability to bring a freedom and spontaneity adds much to this free flowing movement with terrific textures and sonorities from both these players. There are some sparkling passages before some wonderfully dynamic passages and a decisive coda.

This is a performance of virtuosity, energy, spontaneity and poetry in equal measure.

Văcărescu brings a rhapsodic freedom, a nonchalance, to the opening of Johannes Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 17 (arr. Fritz Kreisler) before developing some very fine textures, revealing a technique that sails seemingly effortlessly over many technical demands, whilst always finding the subtle moments.

This violinist brings a lovely gentle sway to Antonín Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance Op. 72, No. 2 (arr. F. Kreisler) showing how he has this music in his fingers. The fine textures and timbres he brings sound so natural, never forced, often with a real spark of fire, often wonderfully playful.

Jacobson frames Văcărescu’s playful account of Jenő Hubay’s Zephyr from ‘The Flower's Tale’, Op. 30 with this violinist again bringing a sense of ease as he sours high. He has a wonderfully light bow as he travels through some spectacularly fine light and quick-fire passages to the super little coda.

Frédéric Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 27 No. 2 (arr. August Wilhelmj) reveals just what a fine tone this violinist has in the longer lines of this piece, slowly adding some beautifully formed textures, often with an edge to point up the passion. Jacobson provides the perfect foil with his gentle accompaniment.

Văcărescu and Jacobson bring a distinct Latin flavour to their performance of Pablo de Sarasate’s Habanera from Spanish Dance Op. 21 No. 2. There are many lovely little moments as this violinist teases out some terrific tones, textures and colours, again negotiating the virtuosic intricacies of this piece with apparent ease, an ease that allows him to add so much more in the way of artistry.

Next these two artists bring us two pieces from Ludwig van Beethoven’s ‘The Ruins of Athens’, Op. 113, both arranged by Leopold Auer. Both bring much jollity to the Turkish March - Scherzo finding much wit in this arrangement with the feel that one could easily be at a live performance. In the Chorus of Dervishes - Etude they build up a terrific swirl showing  terrific ensemble with this violinist bringing a terrific texture before arriving at a wonderfully ‘throw away’ coda.

Finally Văcărescu choses a real showcase for his virtuosity with Antonio Bazzini’s The Round of the Goblins - Scherzo Fantastique op.25 with some quite spectacularly fine, lightly sprung bowing with terrific phrasing and dynamics. There are little pizzicato notes thrown in and the most wonderfully light descending scales – he can do it all. He brings terrific rhythmic control, especially in the pizzicato passages. Yes I know others have done this before but Bogdan Văcărescu does it with such aplomb.

Don’t let the title Thrillers fool you. Yes, there are many thrilling moments but much, much more as well. They receive a very fine recording, detailed and warm, from the AIR Studios, Lyndhurst Hall, London, UK and there are useful booklet notes. 

This is an impressive showcase for this violinist. 

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