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Richard Strauss' heady orchestral conjugations (tone poems and opera scores) stemmed from influences of Berlioz, Liszt and Wagner, yet they hardly lend themselves to rearrangements for violin and piano and, for my taste, the lengthiest item of this recital (15' 56"), Prutsmann's 'Fantasy on themes from Der Rosenkavalier', sounds worryingly congested. It's light years removed from the Italianate fantasie that follows.

Listen -- Prutsman: 'Fantasy Extract on Themes from
Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier (track 6, 1:51-3:10)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Melodic similarities between Genoa-born Nicolo Paganini (1782-1840) and Pesaro-born Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868) are unmistakable and evidently the phenomenal violinist was entirely in his element when writing his 'Introduction and Variations on "Di tanti palpiti"' from Rossini's Tancredi. Why this item is so rarely included among Paganini brackets is hard to fathom. All the more reason to give it 'a big hand'. What Sohn lacks in high-octane firepower she more than compensates for with this spotless, fulgurant, entirely delectable performance.

Listen -- Paganini: I palpiti (track 7, 5:26-6:39)
© 2007 Naxos Rights International Ltd

Bizet's repetitious duet 'In the Depths of the Temple' ('Au fond du temple saint') from The Pearl Fishers (Les pêcheurs de perles, 1863) is included as a faithful (non-fantasie) transcription by Naxos' featured accompanist Benjamin Loeb. Ms Sohn takes the tenor lead (Nadir) and violist Geoff Nuttall, the baritone (Zurga). Together the instruments evoke the men's former rivalry for the hand of the beautiful priestess, Leila, and how they swore never to see her again.

With or without vocals, 'Au fond du temple saint' always receives rapturous acclaim. It invariably topped listener's polls for the BBC's Your Hundred Best Tunes. It was also No 1 in ABC's The Classic 100 Opera, a poll in which Australians voted for the one moment in opera they could not live without.

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Copyright © 7 May 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


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