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Glazunov, Sibelius & Dvořák: Violin Works

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0153
Release Date: 10/01/2015
Number of Discs: 1
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Glazunov Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82
Sibelius Six Humoresques for Violin & Orchestra
Dvorak Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53

Efi Christodoulou, violin
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
John Carewe, conductor

Both violinist and pianist give the Humoresques their all, with predictably (by now) outstanding results. This disc, to put it mildly, is a gem.” Fanfare USA (Elgar, Debussy Violin sonatas & Sibelius Humoresques. Efi Christodoulou & Margaret Fingerhut)

This new SOMM release features two perennial favourites, the Glazunov and Dvorak Violin Concertos. They are often recorded together, deriving their inspiration from Russian Bohemia’s musical heritage whilst still remaining close to Brahmsian Viennese traditions. Adding to these Sibelius’s Six Humoresques for Violin & Orchestra makes this a hugely enjoyable combination.

Glazunov’s Violin Concerto is one of his most popular works. He dedicated it to violinist Leopold Auer who gave its first performance in 1905 and it was premiered in London by Auer’s 14-year-old pupil Mischa Elman a year later, under Henry Wood. Lyrical and technically brilliant, it has an original, albeit unusual structure in that the slow second movement is seamlessly inserted into the middle of the first movement, ending with Glazunov’s Cadenza which demands exceptional virtuosity. In the final section Glazunov enhances the solo part by some left-hand pizzicatos, extended passages of double-stopping and chains of harmonics, whilst sustaining the rich melodic inspiration of the previous sections. The Concerto was a concert-hall favourite from the time of its composition and has remained popular despite the fact that very little else of Glazunov’s works is played in the concert hall these days.

Sibelius’ Violin Concerto, completed in 1905, is well established in the repertoire but the Six Humoresques op. 87 and 89 are neglected gems. This set of delightful miniatures dates from twelve years later than the Violin Concerto and inevitably reveals a more mature Sibelius, a composer of striking imaginative range. As a group the Humoresques belong — along with Bartok’s Rumanian Dances or Brahms’s Hungarian Dances etc., in the category of great composers’ “lighter” creations which, nonetheless, remain captivating even after repeated listenings.

Dvorak dedicated his Violin Concerto to the great virtuoso Joseph Joachim. The concerto is one of the most abundantly melodic and loveable works in the composer’s entire output. Its lyricism is intensified by an increasingly rhapsodic solo part in the second movement and the rondo finale, featuring a dance of characteristic cross-rhythms in the style of the furiant, is a sheer celebration of Czech folk music.

Greek-born violinist Efi Christodoulou has been reviewed by The Strad as “a powerful violinist, demonstrating a high level of technical achievement” (Wigmore Hall). Efi received First Prize from the Athens National Conservatoire where she studied with Spyros Stergiou. She subsequently studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London with Detlef Hahn and Yfrah Neaman and later Eugene Sarbu. She has taken part in masterclasses with Ruggiero Ricci, Vladimir Spivakov, Hermann Krebbers et al. She was also awarded scholarships by the British Council, the Vakarelis Fellowship and the Leventis and Hellenic Foundations and a Sir Jack and Lady Lyons Scholarship among others.

Efi Christodoulou was a semi-finalist in BBC Radio Two’s Young Musician of the Year and a second prize winner in the Anglo-Czech Competition as well as a finalist in the Michelangelo Abbado International Violin competition (Milan).

Efi is developing a career in the UK where she has recently given recitals at St. John’s, Smith Square and the Wigmore Hall. She has also given the Scottish premiere of the William Schuman Concerto at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival and UK premieres of works by David Matthews, Malcolm Arnold, Theodore Antoniou, Ned Rorem and Leonard Bernstein. Efi has also performed extensively in France (La Salle Cortot) and at the Athens Megaron as soloist with the Athens State Symphony, the Stuttgart Academia and others. In between engagements, she leads the City of Athens Symphony Orchestra. She gratefully acknowledges the donation of a Pierre Silvestre violin (1848) by Matti and Nicholas Egon.

Conductor John Carewe has studied in London and Paris. His main teachers were Walter Goehr, Max Deutsch (both Schoenberg pupils), Messiaen and Boulez. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he gave many premieres with his New Music Ensemble in London and in the major UK Festivals, including the first British Ensemble performance of Le Marteau sans Maitre by Boulez, and first performances of many of his contemporaries. He also conducted the first British performance of Stockhausen’s Gruppen.

In the 1960s he was principal conductor of the BBC Welsh Orchestra in Cardiff and in the mid-1970s he began a fruitful period of annual visits to Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. In the 1980s he made his German debut with the Nuremberger Symphoniker and became a regular visitor to Germany conducting many different orchestras, but mainly the major Radio Symphony orchestras of Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hanover and Saarbrucken. During this period his work expanded to include orchestras in France, Sweden, Holland and Denmark where he was noted for his wide-ranging repertoire which included Mahler, Stravinsky, Debussy, Elgar et al. In the 1990s he was General Music Director of the Robert Schumann Philharmonic and Opera in Chemnitz, Germany where he won a national prize for his varied programming.

He has an extensive discography, notably a highly praised CD of Debussy’s Pelleas et Melisande recorded in 1988 after performances with Nice Opera. Some notable examples from his discography also include Milhaud’s La Creation du Monde, Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, Schoenberg’s Erwartung (Eva Marton) for Hungaroton and with the same singer orchestral songs by Zemlinsky, Schoenberg, Schreker and Korngold,  David Matthew’s Cantiga and Mahler’s Seven Early Songs with Jill Gomez, among many others.

On This Recording

  1. Violin Concerto: I. Moderato
  2. Violin Concerto: II. Andante
  3. Violin Concerto: III. Allegro
  4. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 87, No. 1
  5. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 2 in D Major, Op. 87, No. 2
  6. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 3 in G Minor, Op. 89a
  7. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 4 in G Minor, Op. 89b
  8. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 5 in E-Flat Major, Op. 89c
  9. Humoresque: Humoresque No. 6 in G Minor, Op. 89d
  10. Violin Concerto: I. Allegro ma non troppo
  11. Violin Concerto: II. Adagio ma non troppo
  12. Violin Concerto: III. Finale: Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo