SIBELIUS Violin Concerto Gringolts Järvi

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SERGE PROKOFIEV

Violinkonzert
Violin Concerto No. 1
+ Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Ilya Gringolts
Göteborgs Symfoniker
Neeme Järvi
Int. Release 03 May. 2004
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Track List

Sergei Prokofiev (1891 - 1953)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D, Op.19

Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)
6 Humoresques for Violin and Orchestra

Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47

Ilya Gringolts, Göteborgs Symfoniker, Neeme Järvi

Total Playing Time 1:09:18

With the recent release of his Bach . . . this young Russian prodigy has shown that he can indeed read between the lines and infuse these paramount solo violin works with remarkable verve. His unorthodox approach, often aggressive and sometimes sublimely lyrical, has sent some critics into a spin, especially those expecting a more honeyed interpretation of these polyphonic masterworks.

The music often dances along with an unexpected happiness, Gringolts's tempo allowing us to hear detail in the solo line that usually becomes a brilliant blur as passages hurtle by . . . it is in total one of the most commendable performances in the catalogue.

Ilya Gringolts is a player of formidable technique and considerable musical imagination, and finds congenial partners here in the vastly experienced Neeme Järvi and his Gothenburg orchestra. The Sibelius Concertio is performed with great strength and poetry . . .

Ilya Gringolts is one sensational violinist. From a purely technical point of view, the playing on offer here is nothing short of astounding . . . Well balanced, vivid sound
complements a release that violin fans surely will enjoy, one that confirms Gringolts' growing reputation as a hot virtuoso who's much more than just a hot virtuoso.

Ilya Gringolts has something to offer to listeners in the notes as well as in his performances . . . Gringolts manages to combine Oistrakh's mystical intensity, especially to the outer movements, with Szigeti's caustic asperity . . . He makes bold gestures with plenty of tonal resources to spare, never crossing over into either indulgent warmth or rough edginess. Gringolts speaks of the magical moments a soloist experiences after the sound of the last movement dies away. His own reading of that final page serves as a transcendental explication of his remarks . . . His readings, by turns fey and ardent, make these pieces out to be miniatures collectively of rather more importance than they've generally been taken to be by other performers . . . Ilya Gringolts seems to be one of the handful of violinists of the younger generation who takes risks to personalize what he plays -- and generally succeeds. His musical intelligence makes as strong an impression as does his technical preparedness . . . Strongly recommended.

Die beiden Violinkonzerte gelten unter Fachleuten als virtuos extrem, aber auch als emotional komplex. Im Falle Sibelius wird von manchen eine gewisse Schwüle konstatiert. Dieser aber weiß Ilya Gringolts mit einer geradezu ätherischen Klarheit zu begegnen -- und entledigt so den Finnen von einer überdrüssigen Melancholie.

Gringolts ist mehr als ein Geheimtipp: Der 22-jährige Geiger kann auf seiner Stradivari verrückte Kapriolen schlagen und herrliche Melodien streichen . . . Der Sound ist perfekt ausgeleuchtet: fein aufgefächert die Göteborger, anspringend klar der Solopart . . . schaurig-schön mit Gänsehaut-Faktor.

. . . stringent konzipiert und doch im besten Sinne jung im energischen Impetus. Die Grammophon setzt mithin auf den Riichtigen, wenn sie den Petersburger Individualisten nun zum zweiten Mal eine Konzertaufnahme realisieren lässt. Gringolts hat viel zu erzählen, also hört man mit Spannung zu.

Tadellos . . . Man spürt den musikalischen Erzähler, wie er die herbe, dunkle weitbogige Melodik, die ja voller Schwermut und Melancholie steckt, mit tonlichem Raffinement adelt. Die Göteborger Symphoniker mit Altmeister Neeme Järvi am Pult erweisen sich als reaktionsschnell mitgestaltende Partner.

Hier erweist sich endgültig, was Hilary Hahn mit ihrer Neueinspielung des Elgar-Konzertes gelungen ist: die Rückführung eines in epischer Breite sich verströmenden Konzert Kolosses auf seinen Ausdruckskern. Der besteht nicht darin, die Übergänge von einer Note zur nächsten mit breiten Portamenti zu verschleifen und so die zu immer neuen Bögen gruppierten Phrasen möglichst bruchsicher zu verkleben, er äußert sich vielmehr in dem bei entsprechender Tongebung natürlich sich entfaltenden melodischen Fluss, den es durch Differenzierungen in der Binnengestaltung von Tempoeinheiten zu gliedern gilt. Das flexible Mitgestalten des London Symphony Orchestra ermöglicht diese Haltung, Hilary Hahns derzeit wohl konkurrenzloses Spiel erfüllt sie.

[Gringolts] anime le Concerto en ré majeur de Prokofiev d'un mélange unique de frénésie et de sensualité. Un archet d'une incroyable légèreté, une main gauche d'une agilité féline, des timbres originaux et une farouche spontanéité sont une fois encore le reflet d'une personnalité singulière . . . Neeme Järvi tire de son orchestre des couleurs raffinées et lui insuffle une pétillante dynamique (Scherzo).

Sa personnalité et son enthousiasme, alliés à une maîtrise instrumentale confondante, nous avaient particulièrement fait très bonne impression . . .

Es una lectura deliciosa, muy bella, casi galante, cercana al Prokoflev dieciochesco de la sinfonía n°1. Järvi obedece como un cordero y la orquesta de Göteborg muestra su rostro más dulce. Ese es, diría yo, el talento de un artista verdadero, que te lleva por donde quiere . . . En esta pieza, Grigolts es un gran artista. . . . las casi nunca grabadas Humerseques, op.89 . . . es un regalo valioso para el conocedor.

Gringolts incide en la sensibilidad del segundo tema, por encima de la pasión del primero . . . con la complicidad de Järvi, retarda este movimiento hasta ahondar en su dimensión más "terrorífica" [Sibelius]. . . . el lirismo del final conduce, por lo inesperado, a una atmósfera donde se presiente lo fantástico y en el que la espléndida escritura orquestal es dibujada con mimo por la Sinfónica de Göteborg [Prokofiev].

Ilia Gringolts es una de esas jóvenes promesas que van consolidando su potencial año a año. ... Su sonido es de una extraordinaria pureza, de líneas claras y sin aditamentos que lo enturbien.
    Ilya Gringolts - a Biographical Timeline

"His blend of rigour and rhapsody, coupled with lively new ideas that spring directly from the music, identify a violinist of great virtuosity, and one who has the intellect and sensibility to apply it to expressive purpose."
The Daily Telegraph, August 2002

1982 Born on 2 July in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad)
1987 Begins violin lessons
1988 Begins study with Tatiana Liberova
1990 Enters the St. Petersburg Special Music School
1992 First competition: 2nd prize in the All-Russia Junior Competition
1993 Public performance début with orchestra in Vivaldi's The Four Seasons
1994 First prize in the Youth Assemblies of Art Competition; Moscow Symphony Orchestra début with Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 2
1995 First competition abroad: prizewinner at the Menuhin Competition in England, where he first meets Menuhin; Western European orchestral début with the Lahti Symphony (Finland) performing Bruch's Concerto No. 1
1997 First prize, Wieniawski Junior Competition in Poland
1998 Meets and plays for Itzhak Perlman; first prize in the Paganini Competition
1999 First performs at Verbier Festival in Switzerland; enters Juilliard School of Music where he studies with Dorothy Delay and Itzhak Perlman; North American début in July performing with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa under the baton of Pinchas Zukerman
2000/01 Major US orchestral début with the Los Angeles Philharmonic; recitals in the US and Canada; orchestral engagements include the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, the Atlanta Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and the Swedish Chamber Orchestra; he is one of twelve young artists selected by the BBC for their New Generation Artists Scheme
2001/02 Signs exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon; first recording comprises concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, released in summer 2002 to high critical acclaim; orchestral engagements include the St. Petersburg Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Minnesota Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra; European tour with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra under Yuri Temirkanov; Ravinia Festival recital; recital and concerto tour of Italy, including acclaimed performances with Yuri Bashmet and the Moscow Soloists in Florence, Perugia, Siena, and the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome; in August 2002 he makes his BBC Proms début, performing Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Vassily Sinaisky
2002/03 Engagements this season include concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Barenboim and Lahti Symphony Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, as well as with the UBS Verbier Youth Orchestra under Masur and Rostropovich; he gives recitals at the Louvre, Brussels's Palais des Beaux-Arts and, and London's Wigmore Hall, an all-Bach solo recital at the National Galley, Washington, DC, and appears at international festivals such as La Jolla and Verbier, where he collaborates with artists including Bashmet, Levine, Shaham, Kirshbaum, Ax and, and Andsnes; CD release of his first DG recording, concertos by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich (with the Israel Philharmonic conducted by Itzhak Perlman), followed up by a Bach solo sonata and two partitas (released in spring 2003)
2003/04 This season includes concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Itzhak Perlman and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Litton; he will also play the Elgar Concerto with William Boughton and the English Symphony Orchestra at the 2004 Birmingham International Elgar Festival; recitals to include St. Petersburg, Karlsruhe (Germany), San Francisco and, and Tacoma (Washington); new CD release: concertos by Sibelius and Prokofiev with Neeme Järvi and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Ilya Gringolts plays the ex-Kiesewetter Stradivari, Cremona, c. 1723, on extended loan from Clement Arrison through the generosity of the Stradivari Society of Chicago.


2/2004

    Ilya Gringolts Plays Sibelius and Prokofiev

The Sibelius concerto, composed in 1903, is his only work in this form - though he later contemplated writing a second violin concerto. In its revised version, completed in 1905, the work has taken a secure place among the masterpieces and universally popular mainstays of the violin repertoire. Coming between the Second and Third symphonies, it was written when Sibelius was 38 and had already reached full maturity as a composer but, significantly, before the transitional Fourth Symphony in which he embarked on his individual path as a symphonist.

The violin was Sibelius's first study instrument and in his youth he had nourished ambitions to become a virtuoso - he could manage the first two movements of the Mendelssohn E minor concerto and as late as 1891 auditioned for the Vienna Philharmonic. Hardly surprising, then, that he exploits all the facets of sure-fire Romantic violin technique, with double-stoppings, heroic bravura runs, high-register trills and a sustained lyricism.

As already intimated, Sibelius had some difficulty arriving at the concerto's final form. The premiere in Helsinki in February 1904 had a mixed reception, in part because the soloist Viktor Nováãek was not up to the work's dizzying technical demands. But Sibelius himself was also dissatisfied. His 1905 revision was premiered in Berlin in October that year under the baton of Richard Strauss, with Karel Halí? as soloist. "Unlike some other composers, Sibelius's revisions were usually for the better," says Ilya Gringolts. "There were five minutes more music in the first movement of the original concerto, and there really are some striking differences between the two versions."

The long rhapsodic first movement is one of great originality, casting aside the usual canons of sonata form (though, ironically, emphasizing thematic contrasts - one of the essential elements of that form). Its first theme, an extended and passionate song, is heard immediately in the violin; the more restful second theme follows after an orchestral interlude. The concerto's second movement (an Adagio in B flat major) is an ingratiating poem, one of Sibelius's most overtly sentimental effusions, replete with the lush orchestration and grandiose gestures that mark the last stages of European Romanticism. The finale is a robust rondo made up of two important themes, the first of which was famously characterized by the English musicologist Donald Tovey as "a polonaise for polar bears". Ilya Gringolts sees it differently: "It's not a virtuoso display. It's a tour de force! It's a dance of death, as Sibelius described it. You can understand what he meant just by pulling the tempo down a little bit. Play it a little slower and it becomes really scary!"

After the Violin Concerto, the six Humoresques for violin and orchestra are Sibelius's most important works for soloist and orchestra. Ilya Gringolts plays the four published as op. 89, omitting the two of op. 87 - no. 1 in D minor and no. 2 in D major. The first five were completed in 1917, the last one in 1918. The character of all six is not exactly humorous, markedly less so than Dvo?ák's miniatures of the same name. They are also considerably more demanding technically than Dvo?ák's. Light and shadow, a certain restlessness and some noble, virtuosic writing for the soloist, rivalling that of the concerto, lend immense distinction to these relatively little-known works.

"There is an amazingly bitter-sweet quality about them," Gringolts feels. "Strangely, they sound a little like Prokofiev and unlike anything else Sibelius was writing at the time. I think it had to do with the fact that they needed to be accessible - it was the First World War and he had to make money - and so they couldn't be like his Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, which he completed about the same time. In a way they lead back, perhaps, to the Third Symphony. Playing them with orchestra is quite a daunting task. There is a lot of really staggeringly difficult string playing - a lot of divisi violins and interesting harmonies going on at the same time. I have to tell you, in the recording sessions we spent most of the time on these little pieces, not on the concertos!"

Conceived originally as a one-movement concertino for violin and orchestra, the seeds of Prokofiev's D major Concerto were sown in 1915. Over the next two years, however, the notional one movement grew to three, though the circumstances of its completion were far from ideal. After the horrors of the Revolution, in 1918 Prokofiev left Russia for a tour of the United States and did not return until 1927. It was five years before the score received its first performance, on 18 October 1923 with Marcel Darrieux as soloist and the Paris Opera Orchestra under the baton of Serge Koussevitzky.

"Even though the Sibelius Humoresques and the Prokofiev Concerto were written at about the same time," observes Gringolts, "which was a very tumultuous time for Russia and Finland, the funny thing is that you don't hear any of that in the music. The Prokofiev is very far removed from politics and all that was happening in society. He was working as an outsider, a lonely genius - rather like Mozart, I feel - very unconnected with life. Even when he came back to Russia, he remained uninvolved, a completely different outlook to that of Shostakovich, for instance. When I arrived in the States to study, I discovered that Prokofiev's Second Concerto was popular but the First was overlooked. In Russia it's the other way round. It has to do with the old Soviet prejudice against music that
was written abroad by Russian composers. Such composers were considered to be traitors and their music a kind of criminal activity! So I was always more exposed to the First Concerto of Prokofiev, which was written in Russia (the Second was written in France). It was never overlooked and I knew it very well."

The D major concerto was one of a series of works showing a "softening of temper" (Prokofiev's words) after his days as an enfant terrible. These include his opp. 25-27 - the First ("Classical") Symphony, the Third Piano Concerto and the five songs on poems by Akhmatova - all

of which had been started or even extensively sketched by the time he finished the present concerto. Its three movements project an unusual structure in that the outer two (Andantino and Moderato) are generally more lyrical in character, while the central movement is an energetic scherzo (marked Vivacissimo). Prokofiev introduces a bristling array of expressive effects and technical challenges, from long cantabile lines and pizzicato chords to a ponticello passage (bowing near the bridge of the instrument) in the second movement, sudden shifts from bowed to plucked notes, and floating, high harmonics. But, since the germ of the whole work grew from the meditative theme with which it opens, it is not surprising that the lyrical mood dominates.

"There is some wonderful orchestral writing in this concerto," Gringolts enthuses. "I think orchestras must love playing it because there are so many things to bring out. Also to conduct it must be quite interesting! Looking at the first violins, the string section, the woodwinds, I find the little themes and dabs of colour that he introduces amazing - especially unusual at the time he was writing the work. The third movement is very beautiful, but it's not what you'd normally expect of a "finale", being very slow and lyrical. Then there is the wonderful moment when the theme of the first movement returns unexpectedly and then disappears into a sort of haze. After this there's always a moment of silence. When you just stand there in the silence and breathe in the atmosphere of this music for five or six seconds, it is a magical feeling."

Jeremy Nicholas