Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Terrific performances from violinist Hideko Udagawa on two releases from Nimbus that include the Brahms and Bruch concertos with Sir Charles Mackerras and rare 18th century concertos

The violinist http://hidekoudagawa.com Hideko Udagawa studied with Nathan Milstein in London and at the Juilliard School in New York. After living in Tokyo and New York she now resides in London. Udagawa made her orchestral debut in London with the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Charles Mackerras, playing Bruch's G minor concerto at the Barbican Hall.

Highlights from her other engagements include performances with the Philharmonia under Leonard Slatkin, Royal Philharmonic under Paavo Jarvi, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under Marek Janowski, City of Birmingham Symphony under Okko Kamu, London Mozart Players under Matthias Bamert, Russian National under Paavo Berglund, Moscow Philharmonic under Fedor Glushchenko, as well as the English Chamber, National Symphony and Bavarian Radio orchestras.

In addition to live performances, Udagawa has made a number of recordings which draw on her wide-ranging repertoire of over forty concerti. Her CD of works by Aram Khachaturian with the pianist Boris Berezovsky, for Koch International, includes seven world première recordings and her recent CD of works by Rachmaninov with the pianist Konstantin Lifschitz, for Signum Records, is the first ever collection of this popular composer's works for violin and piano and includes previously unrecorded pieces.

Her recent CD with the Philharmonia Orchestra, released by Signum Records in 2010, includes premiere recordings of works for violin and orchestra by Joachim and Ysaye. This was issued to coincide with her recital in Cadogan Hall and was chosen as Presenter's Choice by Classic FM Magazine. In Autumn 2011 she recorded Khachaturian’s Concerto Rhapsody and Liapunov’s Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for Signum Records. 

Nimbus Records www.wyastone.co.uk/all-labels/nimbus/nimbus-alliance.html  have recently released Hideko Udagawa’s 1989 recording of the Bruch and Brahms Violin Concertos with London Symphony Orchestra http://lso.co.uk conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras and this month (February 2015) will release a brand new disc entitled Baroque Inspirations that features a number of 18th Century Concertos. Here Udagawa is joined by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra www.sco.org.uk  conducted by Nicholas Kraemer www.caroline-phillips.co.uk/artists/conductor/nicholas-kraemer

The first of these two discs gives us the opportunity to hear this fine violinist accompanied by one of the greatest of conductors, the late Sir Charles Mackerras.


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With the orchestral opening of the Allegro non Troppo of Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, Op.77 Mackerras brings all the authority and strength you would expect and when Udagawa enters she brings a tremendous power and presence. As the movement progresses she provides some exquisite ‘singing’ passages as well as lovely legato playing, interspersed by some terrific fiery passages into which she really throws herself.  Udagawa, Mackerras and the orchestra bring some fine interplay as well as moments of lovely hushed beauty.  There are many moments that shed new light on this much performed concerto with both the soloist and orchestra alive to all of Brahms’ moods. There is a very fine cadenza before we are led into a quite lovely, gentle passage as the orchestra joins for the coda.

The Adagio has a beautifully played, chamber like opening for winds. When Udagawa enters she weaves a lovely flowing line with a lovely freedom as she finds every detail and nuance. There is a terrific, incisive opening to the Allegro giocoso from Udagawa, with the London Symphony Orchestra providing some thrilling accompaniment. This violinist’s flowing, seamless forward moving line is rather special and there is more fine interplay between soloist and orchestra as the movement progresses, picking up the tension as the music leads to a very fine coda.

There is a lovely opening before the music takes off in the Allegro moderato of Bruch’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.1 in G minor, Op.26 a true allegro moderato tempo with Udagawa bringing some fine sonorities. There is a fine weight and assurance from Mackerras and the LSO. Soon Udagawa’s beautiful singing tone is to the fore, absolutely exquisite before an extended, fiery passage for the orchestra where the LSO provide terrific playing showing them to be on top form under the inspired direction of Mackerras. When the soloist enters there is some terrific, virtuosic playing and as Bruch’s fine melody breaks forth, we are led into the second movement.

The Adagio is superbly done, this violinist providing a lovely subtle rubato and so many fine hushed details. As the music moves on Udagawa’s lovely flowing, legato playing is revealed again. There are some fine orchestral details heard with fine care of tempi and dynamics before the climax is reached and we move to the gentle coda.

The Finale. Allegro energico brings much fine playing from both Udagawa and the LSO under Mackerras who make a fine team, taut and with a perfect understanding. Udagawa lifts every bar, finding something fresh to say with nothing ever routine.

These works are never used as vehicles for mere virtuosity and show by these artists. Hideko Udagawa can really make her violin sing in these very fine performances where she is given first class support from Mackerras and the orchestra.

The recording made at the Henry Hall, London in 1989 has a little top edge to it but is well balanced and clear. Regardless here are two terrific performances. There are informative booklet notes.

The other release featuring Hideko Udagawa and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Kraemer, Baroque Inspirations, contains no fewer than three world premiere recordings.

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Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770) is supposed to have had a dream where the devil stood at the end of his bed playing a sequence of double stopped trills on the composer’s own violin. Though he could remember none of the music played he nevertheless wrote his own Sonata in G minor ‘Devils Trill’ for solo violin. Here Hideko Udagawa, in the absence of Tartini’s autograph score, plays the sonata solo in the edition by Jean Baptiste Cartier (Paris, 1798).

The exceptionally clear and detailed recording made at St. Judes, Hampstead, London in May 2014 shows Hideko Udagawa’s fine technique to the full. She finds the lovely gentle rhythm that underlines the opening of this work, providing lovely textures and tone. When the pace quickens there is some very fine playing with superb accuracy and dexterity. In the third movement she handles the rhythmic changes superbly with some fine textures. There is such care and thought throughout with beautifully broad, resonant passages.

Hideko Udagawa found Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Prelude for solo violin ‘Andante in C minor’ in a Russian edition. This premiere recorded performance is beautifully paced and phrased, allowing the natural spring or pulse in the music to propel it forward with more fine tone and textures.

The third world premiere recording is of Karl Stamitz’s (1745-1801) Concerto in B flat for violin and orchestra for which Nicholas Kraemer and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra join. This recording made in the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland, is slightly closer, yet detailed and finely balanced. There is a very attractive Allegro from which Udagawa draws many attractive details with fine support from Nicholas Kraemer and his players with some beautifully shaped orchestral phrases.  This violinist’s lovely tone and flow add so much and there is a particularly attractive cadenza just before the coda.

The gently flowing Adagio brings Udagawa’s flow and singing tone showing this movement at its best before a solo passage where the soloist weaves a lovely flowing theme. The rhythmically buoyant Rondo has a lively, fun theme, full of simplicity. This is not a great concerto by any standards but very attractive especially in a performance such as this that lifts it above what it might otherwise be.

The great violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was quite prolific as a composer in a lighter vein. His Concerto in C for violin and orchestra in the style of Antonio Vivaldi was written in 1927 and opens with an Allegro that has a lively, rather English sounding string theme. It is only when Udagawa enters does the violinistic style of Vivaldi appear with an attractive, catchy theme beautifully played by this violinist with fine rhythmic bounce. There is a lovely buoyant Andante doloroso to which Udagawa adds her lovely tone in a beautifully shaped reading.  The Allegro assai flies away full of energy, with a lightness of touch. This is lightweight but great fun, something that these players pick up on before leading to a lovely baroque style coda.

Despite its lightweight character and occasional weak moments in the writing this is an attractive novelty, brilliantly played.

For me Tomasso Vital’s (1663-1745) Chaconne in G minor for violin and orchestra is the real revelation on this disc. It has a rich opening for lower strings, slowly rising as the soloist enters with a very fine theme. There are some lovely details and inflections from Hideko Udagawa as well as a fine rubato. Again it is Udagawa’s feel for the longer line that provides so much pleasure. As the tempo picks up, the music is full of lovely textures and timbres finely revealed by this soloist. Later the music broadens again and there is much variety and interest as it changes in rhythm, dynamics and tempo.

This is a remarkably fine work brilliantly played by Hideko Udagawa, Nicholas Kraemer and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

This is a fascinating collection of works that receive terrific performances. There are informative booklet notes.

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