‘A disc without flaws, a true marvel’ is how Jean-Jacques Kantorow’s previous recording of music by Édouard Lalo was described in the Spanish magazine Scherzo. The disc in question included three works composed for the great violin virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate: the violin concerto, Fantaisie norvégienne and the perennial favourite Symphonie espagnole. In a review in Gramophone, the soloist was compared to his great predecessor: ‘Kantorow, one of today's most individual players, has the measure of Lalo's Sarasate-inspired violin-writing - he's able to toss off the virtuoso passagework in a seemingly effortless manner and his distinctive tone lends a sensuous allure to Lalo's melodies.’ On the present disc, Kantorow plays two other works intended for Sarasate, the brief Fantaisie-ballet on themes from Lalo’s ballet Namouna, and the large-scale Concerto russe. The latter piece, in four movements, borrows themes from two wedding songs included by Rimsky-Korsakov in his collection 100 Russian Folk Songs. A typically expressive and virtuosic composition, it is also one of the first important French works to draw upon Russian music – many others were to follow. Two shorter violin works are included here, but the disc closes with another concerto, the Piano Concerto from 1888. It was the composer’s final major work, and in it he seems to depart from the pattern of his violin concertos, with their prominent solo parts. Lalo rather chooses to integrate the piano into the orchestral texture, and although the writing is redolent of the great Romantic concertos, it offers few opportunities for the soloist to show off – a possible reason for the work’s absence from modern concert programmes and its rarity on disc. Championing this solo part is Pierre-Alain Volondat, and as in the other works orchestral support is provided by the eminent Tapiola Sinfonietta, conducted by Kees Bakels.
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