KREISLER Music for violin and piano: Praeludium and Allegro; Syncopation; Schön Rosmarin; Liebeslied; Liebesfreud; Polichinelle; Tambourin chinois, etc
Jack Liebeck (violin), Katya Apekisheva (piano)
The world of the Viennese salon comes to life in this beautifully structured programme drawn from Fritz Kreisler’s finest miniatures. Too often the great violinist’s original pieces, pastiches and transcriptions are confined to the encore department; only a few of them are recorded frequently enough. It is a particular treat to hear a collection as sympathetic and well-contrasted as Liebeck and Apekisheva’s.
The spirit of Kreisler’s idiom has become notoriously hard to capture around a century on, and the atmosphere’s balance of ‘schwung’, nostalgia, charm, eloquence and sparkle sometimes eludes stressed-out modern virtuosos. Not so Liebeck, who together with his sympathetic pianist aims for the bullseye and strikes true.
The programme opens with the Praeludium and Allegro – an ideal starter with its faux-Baroque grandeur. The waltzes – Schön Rosmarin, Liebesleid and Liebesfreud – catch just the right airy Straussian rhythm, complete with subtle rubato, and the ragtime charm of Syncopation feels lamplit and sepia-toned.
Numbers such as the Marche miniature viennoise and Danse espagnole become huge fun, with the Gluck Mélodie (the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ from Orfeo ed Euridice) an unexpected oasis of tranquility. The idiom’s intimacy lets us feel that Liebeck is not merely playing to us, but engaging in conversation. Once he is unleashed on the Kreisler arrangement of Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata, however, you realise he has been holding back the full power of his tone, ready for appreciation in the bigger work. Apekisheva provides vigorous, sprightly rhythm and tender counterpoint at the keyboard.
In a word: gorgeous.