Wednesday 12 March 2014

Exceptionally fine performances of two terrific violin concertos by Karl Fiorini on a new release from Metier Records

The composer Karl Fiorini  was born and brought up in Malta. He studied with Charles Camillieri (1931- 2009) before moving to London where he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and The Royal College of Music. Now living in France, he is composer in residence at the Conservatoire in Avignon. Fiorini’s compositions have been performed in major European cities, in the US, Japan and Latin America and some of his works have been featured in festivals throughout Europe.

Winner of Boston’s International Composition Competition in 2004, Fiorini’s compositions include orchestral works, concertos, chamber and instrumental music which have received performances at venues such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus, the Berlin Konzerthaus, the Cadogan Hall, London, the Auditorium Gulbenkian, Lisbon, the Manoel Theatre, Malta, Les Invalides, Paris and the Kyoto City Concert Hall, Japan. Among the ensembles and orchestras, who have performed his compositions,  are the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien, the Rotterdam Ensemble, the European Union Chamber Orchestra, the Orquestra do Norte of Portugal, the Lublin Philharmonic and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, England. Fiorini is artistic director of the International Spring Orchestra Festival, an annual classical music event taking place at the National Theatre of Malta, Teatru Manoel.

A new release from Metier Records features two of Fiorini’s concertos, his Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra and his Violin Concerto No.2 with soloists Emanuel Salvador  and Marta Magdalena Lelek and the Sudecka Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bartosz Żurakowski

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Concerning the Concerto for violin and chamber orchestra (2006-07) Ana Bocanegra Briasco, in her interesting booklet note, speaks of the eternal dichotomy between what is and what appears to be, between what is perceived (colour) and what actually is (a combination of pigments). The concerto, therefore, is conceived more from a timbric perspective that results in an overall orchestral sound. She goes on to refer to a world that is expressed on the inside, one which is more intimate to the author.

The sudden opening motif of the short Preludio is immediately followed by a long held note from the orchestra from which the solo violin emerges. The violin soon takes the theme soaring over the orchestra. A deep note on the basses signals the Lento, certainly not a quiet and gentle movement but one that has much drama as the violin solo continues its way with the orchestra adding dissonances and strange harmonics. Fiorini’s sound world is full of angst and mystery, quite spellbinding with some superb playing from the soloist, Emanuel Salvador.

Woodwind, brass and percussion and strident chords on solo violin open the third movement, merely marked crotchet =126, a terrific moment, full of virtuosic staccato phrases with an acidic edge – very much a successor to some of the great violin concertos of the 20th century from such figures as Bartok and Shostakovich. Eventually the music slows on a high held note as the main theme tries to re-enter but fails, with the music slowly developing with percussion and timpani. The music again slows before a fragmented section where the soloist plays a short little staccato motif against little outbursts from lower strings, woodwind and brass. A section for pizzicato solo violin leads the music on, until a melody for soloist and orchestra arrives, quite melancholy towards the end.

The Chorale, Canone and Passacaglia brings a longer held melody as the solo violin draws a theme over mysterious orchestral sounds. There are superb textures from this soloist as the violin moves around the orchestra in this most affecting of movements. The orchestral writing is exquisite detailed, providing the ultimate in beautifully extreme dissonance towards the end.

A single note from a trumpet opens the Finale with much scurrying in the orchestra as it rises up. A whip crack announces the solo violin in a frenzied theme so brilliantly played by Salvador. Grumbling bass instruments lead to a light and airy clarinet passage, somewhat oriental in flavour, driven along by the rest of the orchestra. When the solo violin enters there is a gypsy flavour to the music, fabulously played in the upper reaches of the violin. A solo passage for violin, playing soft, high harmonics leads to more dynamic section as the orchestra rejoins with various sections playing individual rising themes. High notes in the upper most register lead to the coda that ends on a gruff note from a double bass.

The solo violin opens the Violin Concerto No.2 (2011-12) with a passionate melody, beautifully played by soloist, Marta Magdalena Lelek, which soars upwards before delicate percussion join, followed by the orchestra. The melody continues, embellished by the orchestra, until a second subject opens against a lumbering orchestral accompaniment, giving the music a heavy tread until the violin breaks away. This leads to an orchestral section that becomes increasingly dramatic, halted by the sudden re-entry of the solo violin soon accompanied by the steady tread of the orchestra. A long held violin note above the orchestra leads to a dramatic orchestral sequence with drums and whip building the music before the violin re-enters.

More delicate interludes follow, with percussion and some lovely ethereal sounds. Eventually the violin reaches a short lived melodic plateau but the drama soon re-appears building to a pitch until a hushed, long held note from the solo violin over a quiet orchestra brings a magical moment. After a brief section for orchestra alone, the violin enters in a thoughtful theme against some lovely harmonics from the orchestra. The drama picks up again before the soloist plays the melody high in the register, as does the orchestra with basses holding the lower line in a brilliantly conceived section. As the music picks up momentum again it leads to a huge orchestral climax that allows all the pent up emotion to break out. The solo violin joins and pulls the orchestra back before a virtuoso cadenza from Lelek.

The orchestra comes in over the soloist picking up the dramatic music that follows the cadenza. The solo violin re-joins and both gain in momentum, becoming quite thrusting, as the music builds in power. There are some tremendous passages for the soloist and orchestra before another cadenza passage for solo violin with some superb playing from Marta Magdalena Lelek. The soloist and orchestra lead the music to the fiery coda.

Both soloists in these concertos are exceptionally fine and Bartosz Żurakowski draws excellent playing from the Sudecka Philharmonic Orchestra. The recordings made in the Sudeten (Sudecka) Philharmonic Concert Hall, Walbrzych, Poland are first rate.

Metier must be congratulated for bringing these two terrific works to our attention.

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