Press

ELMIRA DARVAROVA, Concert Violinist

               THE STRAD (2015):

                           "...Hairpin clarity..."
 "...The Latin American rhythms and
      melodic inflections bathe her
     infinitesimally detailed playing
                                  in sunshine..."
       

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           GRAMOPHONE (2015):
                   Charismatic!

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GRAMOPHONE (2013):
 Ultra-impassioned, vividly detailed
                performances

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            THE STRAD (2011): 
     Intoxicating tonal beauty and 
   beguilingly sensuous phrasing

 http://www.thestrad.com/reviews/alfano-violin-sonata-in-d-major-piano-quintet-in-a-flat-major-nenia-scherzino

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THE STRAD (2009):
Darvarova produces a silky-smooth
  voluptuous sound, ideal for the
concerto's meticulous opulence....

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  DISC OF THE MONTH (April 2015) 
                and among the 
        DISCS OF THE YEAR (2015) 
       on  
music-web international


http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2015/Apr/C





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                   FANFARE:
......Technically superb.......musically
insightful............razor-edge accuracy,
passion and insight..I found Darvarova
enchantingly charismatic. Her focus
and energy were mesmerizing...........
...the result was stunning. Everything
was executed on a very high level.
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        THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:

Flawless technique and musicality..
Her tone was warm and beautiful,
and her concentration was
unflagging......A night to remember.

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Sweet, flexible tone.........admirably
speedy but clearly articulated ..... 
.............fluid, finely balanced and
sharply accented performance.



   Photo: E. Baiano for The New York Times

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...assertive but subtle musicianship...
..splendid...There are no moments of
faltering or tentativeness, either with 
regard to the idiom or technically.

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"...The three artists representing the Indian classical
music tradition collaborate with superb American
violinist Elmira Darvarova in masterfully-crafted 
virtuoso performances that showcase the beauty of
Indian and western classical traditions as well as folk
traditions".


http://worldmusiccentral.org/2017/10/11/sarod-titans-meet-the-western-violin/



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                 GOLD MEDAL
    at the 2017 Global Music Awards:
         



         PEACE WORSHIPERS


             



                               

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       THE TIMES OF INDIA (2016)

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          HINDUSTAN TIMES (2016)
 


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                   L'ARENA

        VERONA, ITALY (2014)  



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                     L'ARENA

         VERONA, ITALY (2014)



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           VERONA, ITALY (2014)



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          FERRARA, ITALY (2014)



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THE NEW YORK TIMES (Sept.5, 2014)



           by Anthony Tommasini
    (photo by The New York Times)

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              KONSERTHUSET
     STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN (2014)


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 BIOGRAPH MAGAZINE




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  GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE (2013)



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         HORN CALL Magazine





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                FRANCE (2013)




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                FRANCE (2012)

                La Voix du Nord




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    MUSIC HORIZONS Magazine





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       KULTURA, Sofia (Bulgaria)






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   PECHE DU CLASSIQUE Magazine






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         PLOVDIV, Bulgaria





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          POULENC: CHAMBER MUSIC (Urlicht)
                        by Graham Rickson (artsdesk.com)

 "...irresistible is this handy compilation of some of Francis Poulenc's
 most appealing chamber music, the recordings split between Paris
 and New Jersey. All given continuity by the elegant pianism of
Pascal Rogé, who taped a definitive cycle of Poulenc's piano music
 for Decca in the 1980s. There's far more to this composer than
breezy high spirits, and anyone encountering his music for the first
time through this disc would get an unusually balanced impression
 of Poulenc. Les Biches and the Concerto for Two Pianos aren't the
 whole story. Rogé and his collaborators latch onto the music's
wistfulness, the sadness. These performances ooze authority and
sincerity. We get lightness when it's needed, but plenty of gravitas
too. These pieces deserve to be taken very seriously."
''...The dark
wartime Violin Sonata is well-handled by Elmira Darvarova, who
also sparkles in a brief, fiery Bagatelle for violin and piano." 
"...Excellent performances of deeply loveable music, captured in
rich,
velvety sound."



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   LA VANGUARDIA (Barcelona):



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         FARO DE VIGO (Spain):



..............Intencionadamente dejó para 
el final de este comentario la parte 
correspondiente aí concierto para
violin y orquesta de Tchaikowsky,
aunque en la programación ocupó el
secundo lugar, y ello és debido a mi
deseo de destacar suficientemente 
la actuación de la solista Elmira 
Darvarova qujen, aunque se suponía
buena, soprendió por sus
extraordinarias cualidades. Esta
exceptional artista lo tiene todo, pues
por tener incluso tiene una muy 
atractiva  aparencia física. Su técnica,
admirable en todo momento, sostuvo
una interpretación virtuosistica de
primerísimo orden que no dificultó en
absoluto la manifestación de un lirismo
que es fruto, sin duda, de su 
infrecuente sensibilidad. Exacta en las
entradas, imaginativa, rítmicamente 
impecable, se vió asistida por director
y orquesta de manera plenamente
satisfactoria.

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EL NORTE DE CASTILLA,Valladolid



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       PRENSA DE LUGO, Spain:

................Elmira Darvarova es una 
instrumentista dotada de una
envidiable musicalidad y de una
excelente mecánica, que le permitió
solventar con éxito los muy 
requerimientos técnicos.........


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EL NORTE DE CASTILLA,Valladolid:

.......La solista Elmira Darvarova se 
lució asimismo en la interpretación
de concierto para violín de Tchai-
kovsky. Avalada por gran número 
de premios ínternacionales, la
violinista lució un sonido bello, no
demasiado amplio, pero sí delicado.
Son muchos los escollos técnicos
de esta popular partitura, poro la
solista salvó uno tres otro
evidenci
ando dominio técnico y
musicalidad.....El público ovacionó
con muchísimo calor.....

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    LA NUEVA ESPAÑA, Oviedo:



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 LA DEPECHE DU MIDI, Toulouse:



.....the sincere ovation of the audience
elicited three spontaneous encores
from Elmira Darvarova. Exceptional !...
                                                                                     

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     SCHWABISCHES TAGBLATT,
            Tübingen, Germany
           
   
..the uncommonly difficult solo part
was executed by Elmira Darvarova,
a student of Henryk Szeryng, and a
superb virtuoso. The violinist knew
how to put in the service of music 
her smooth bow technique and her
impeccable mastery of the finger-
board.  She presented a musicality
of the highest order and a 
temperamental personality with
marked vigor of expressiveness.
Enthusiastically acclaimed, she
demonstrated again her skills with 
two Caprices by Paganini (Nr. 24 
and Nr. 19).


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  BADISCHE ZEITUNG, Freiburg:


.................the technical perfection,
high output level and sheer force of
expression elicited at the end
shouts of "Bravo" and prolonged
applause...

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THE NEW YORK TIMES:

.........rousing account of the Fifth
"Brandenburg"...........In the Bartok
Elmira Darvarova's intonation
seemed appropriate to the music's
rough, rustic nature. 


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         THE NEW YORK POST:




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       At the Metropolitan Opera

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   At the Tchaikovsky Competition


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             FANFARE MAGAZINE:

Unearthing Buried Musical Treasures
PDF Print E-mail
Departments - Feature Articles
Written by William Zagorski   
Sunday, 10 January 2010

Unearthing Buried Musical Treasures

In Fanfare 33:2, I favorably reviewed a Naxos release (8.570928) 

containing performances of Franco Alfano’s Cello Sonata and

 Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano. It was my first exposure to Alfano, 

a composer mostly remembered outside of Italy for his controversial

 completion of Puccini’s Turandot I found those two chamber works 

exquisitely crafted and certainly worthy of inclusion in our universal 

chamber-music canon. They were graced with an Italianate sense of 

melody, underpinned by a subtle, French-like, harmonic structure. Most 

important, Alfano demonstrated a strong musical profile. His music 

cannot be mistaken for that of any other composer. The performances 

were technically superb, both gutsy and nuanced, and musically 

insightful, making this disc one to which I will return time and time again 

for the sheer pleasure of it.

I have long contended that our standard repertoire represents merely

 the proverbial tip of a vast and never-ending iceberg. Works are 

included or excluded from it, more often than not, for extra-musical

 reasons. Alfano’s career took a turn for the worse when Toscanini 

damned his completion of TurandotThe fact that Alfano enjoyed cordial

 relations with Mussolini, as did his compatriot, Gian Francesco Malipiero,

also didn’t help matters much with the avowed anti-Fascist Toscanini, or 

with so many concert managers in the post-World War II world. Add to this

 that here in America, concert managers are generally loathe to include 

pieces on their programs that have little or no “name recognition.” They 

resort to statistical analyses proffered by consultants who define “the 100

 works that America loves best” to the exclusion of a virtual, and ever 

growing, musical universe. As a result, contemporary composers suffer

 along with the composers of so many extraordinary musical works 

created in the past. In my radio work at WWFM, a station that allows its 

music hosts to program their own hours on the air, I and several of my 

colleagues are committed to exploring as much of this unbekannt territory

 as possible, and the audience response has been unabashedly positive.

 We now have a reputation, worldwide, thanks to Internet streaming, for 

being an outlet where one may encounter music heard nowhere else.


Enter Elmira Darvarova, a violinist who has served as concertmaster with

 the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Grant Park Orchestra, among

 others, and is currently executive director of the New York Chamber 

Music Festival, and cellist Samuel Magill. From the evidence on that 

Naxos recording, they are indeed uncannily well matched as chamber 

players.

The game plan for this article was that I would attend their September 

16th concert at Symphony Space in New York, attend a reception 

following it, and interview both Darvarova and Magill afterward. I arrived

 with my music-loving brother in tow. The program consisted of 

Beethoven’s String Trio in C Minor, (with the utterly simpatico violist 

Ronald Carbone, who played the rest of the program), Eugene Ysaÿe’s 

expressionistically knotty Trio “Le Chimay,” Charles Marie Widor’s Piano

 Quartet in A Minor  (with pianist Linda Hall added to the ensemble), and 

Gernot Wolfgang’s jazzy Metamorphosis for violin, viola, cello, and piano.

Hearing Darvarova and Magill (along with pianist Scott Dunn) on that 

Naxos release was one thing. Watching Darvarova and Magill, et alia ,

 perform is quite another. Having attended many chamber-music concerts

 in my lifetime, I found Darvarova enchantingly charismatic. Her focus and

 energy were mesmerizing. Across from her sat Samuel Magill, quietly 

and utterly poised as he matched her phrasing and articulation to 

perfection, and underpinned it with unerring intonation and, where called

 for, boldly ravishing tone. This was fine ensemble playing indeed. The 

performance of the Ysaÿe Trio was a particularly gala event, in that 

Darvarova had invited the descendants of the Ysaÿe clan to attend, and 

they did, from both Belgium and Canada. I found the performance of 

Widor’s Piano Quartet revelatory. Having known this composer only from

 his organ symphonies, I was unprepared for what I heard. In harmonic 

language, it was quite post-Romantic in the manner of Fauré—full of 

ravishing harmonies and beautiful unisons in the strings. Near the end of

 its slow movement, Darvarova et alia actually executed perfectly realized

 portamentos, and the result was stunning. (As a defunct violinist, 

I must admit that I miss that now largely discredited device these days, 

and maybe that’s why I so often return to so many of my ancient pre-

stereo recordings of standard orchestral repertoire.) Everything about that

 concert was executed on a very high level. Some of the insightfully 

cogent program notes were authored by Gernot Wolfgang (b. 1957), 

whose Metamorphosis provided a bracing finale to the festivities.

During the reception I had the honor of sitting next to Samuel Magill’s

 father and his wife, both from North Carolina, and could probe him as to 

how his son came to the cello and had ascended to such heights. It was, 

we concluded, all about empowerment. Our children merely come 

through us, and if we can see their highly individual talents and foster

 them, there is no limit to what they can achieve. I got to meet with a few of

 Ysaÿe’s descendents, among them a high-school-aged girl who was an

 enthusiastic violinist in her school orchestra (what a pedigree!). In the 

best sense of the phrase, the beat goes on. I also got to meet with 

composer Gernot Wolfgang and with David Burnett, the lead violin

 instructor of The Harlem School of the Arts. He and I both agreed that 

classical music is not something that was, but something that is. 

wholeheartedly thanked him for his efforts toward insuring its immortality.

 At the close of the reception, which ran far past midnight, both Darvarova 

and Magill were too exhausted to do the interview. They still had 

tomorrow’s demanding concert to rehearse, so I resorted to e-mailing my

 questions to both of them a few days later. Here are the results of that 

virtual interview.


W. Z. : Having heard you on your Naxos Alfano release and at the 

Symphony Space concert a few days ago, your wondrous feeling for 

ensemble give and take, I would like to know if you can tell me how you

 came to know each other. More to the point, how did you find that you

 were, musically speaking, such kindred spirits? You play together as if 

you are one.


E. D.: I have loved Sam Magill’s playing since the day I first met him, 

which was at his audition for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I was on

 the audition committee for associate principal cello, and we had no idea 

who the candidates were, since the auditions were behind a screen.

 Sam’s great tone and fine musicianship had immediately impressed me.

 Later that day, when Sam was announced as the audition winner and

 we all got to shake hands with him as our new associate principal cellist,

 I noticed immediately his pleasant and kind personality, and knew from 

this moment that we would be friends. His particular sound has forever 

appealed to me. To phrase the music in a way that matches his (including

 shifts and slides) is very fulfilling. The abundant unisons that we 

encountered in the Alfano Concerto not only gave us an opportunity to

 match our timing, but also presented us with a forum to express how 

unanimous we are on sound production, vibrato speed, and amplitude of

 phrasing. I believe that the two of us inspire each other all the time, so to

 play as together as possible is not really any effort; it is a joy. Needless to

 say, we are also very close friends, getting along beautifully, and very 

attuned to each other. I believe that we are “kindred spirits” not just 

musically, but in many other ways.


S. M.: Elmira and I first met in 1991 in my first season at the Met. We 

worked closely because she was concertmaster and I was associate 

principal cellist, just three seats away. I loved her playing right from the 

start, and realized we played our instruments in a similar style. We draw 

the bow deeply into the string and utilize a romantic, somewhat operatic 

style. Our training is deeply rooted in the glorious past, my teachers all 

having studied with either Emanuel Feuermann or Gregor Piatigorsky. 

Some years after she left the Met, I was programming the Korngold Suite 

and right away thought of Elmira, because I knew she would be ideal. 

When I started working on the Alfano project, I again asked Elmira to 

collaborate with Scott Dunn and me on the Concerto, because no one 

else could do it justice as could she.


W. Z.: As a champion of neglected and totally worthy repertoire myself, 

I’m eager to know what drove you two to take up the cause?


S. M.: My passion for neglected Romantic music was inspired by the 

series of recordings and festivals organized by the pianist Raymond 

Lewenthal in the late 1960s. I bought his recording of the Rubinstein

 D-Minor Piano Concerto while still in high school and I began a lifelong

 pursuit of detective work to unearth many such scores. The way I 

discovered the Alfano Sonata and Concerto is that, while playing 

Turandot so often at the Met, I had always admired his masterful ending

 of the opera. I wondered if this composer wrote any cello or chamber 

music. Then I found the Sonata in the Library of Congress and 

immediately fell in love with it. After reading through it for the first time, I 

realized the Sonata’s profundity and otherworldly vision. It was like no 

other sonata I had ever heard, though it has many influences, from Ravel

 and Puccini to more modern composers, as well. Then, what to pair it 

with for a CD? I found the Piano Quintet to be cut from the same cloth, so 

when I bought the music for the Concerto, I found that its neo-Classicism 

seemed a delightful contrast. Perhaps later we can pair the Quintet with 

the Violin Sonata. And his three string quartets need to be recorded, too.

I have, over the course of my career, performed the works of Pierné, 

Ropartz, d’Indy, Jongen, Pierre de Breville, Florent Schmitt, Godard, 

Widor, Charles Cadman, Cyril Scott, Stanford, Ireland, Rubinstein, Laszlo

 Lajtha, and many others. I also recorded the world premiere CD of 

Vernon Duke’s Cello Concerto, paired with his Piano Concerto, both 

played and orchestrated by Scott Dunn. The Cello Concerto was written 

for Gregor Piatigorsky in 1945 and premiered by him with the Boston 

S.O., but he never recorded it, though there exists a live performance with

 Piatigorsky and Koussevitsky. However, the last three minutes are sadly

 missing.


E. D.: Recently someone said to me, after looking at the programs for the

 New York Chamber Music Festival: “Apparently you don’t mind 

programming neglected works by forgotten composers. There are so 

many, and all of them are waiting for someone like you to give them 

another chance.” I am actually horrified that there isn’t enough time and

 opportunities to present more of the “neglected but totally worthy” works.

 A lifetime of discovering and presenting neglected but worthy 

compositions will never be enough for such a cause. Even 300 lifetimes

 will never be enough. There is so much beautiful music out there waiting

 to be discovered and performed.

On another note, I feel that programming the Trio “Le Chimay” by Ysaÿe 

was, in a way, my duty—having studied with one of Ysaÿe’s most 

prominent students, Josef Gingold, who, all those decades ago, had 

presented in Brussels the world premiere of Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonata No. 3,

 “Ballade.” Last year, while presenting—together with Ronald Carbone

 and Samuel Magill—the American premiere of Ysaÿe’s Trio, “Le Chimay",

 I thought of Mr. Gingold and was imagining, in front of me, his great 

approving smile. Neither Ysaÿe, nor Gingold ever heard a performance of 

the Trio, “Le Chimay,” yet it lives—in this century—and it is now being 

discovered by more and more musicians, generating more and more 

performances. I felt privileged to present it at the festival, and honored to 

perform it in the presence of several Ysaÿe family members, who had 

traveled to New York just for this occasion.


W. Z.: (to Elmira): How does your role as artistic director of the New York 

Chamber Music Festival fit into your future plans? Currently in America, 

chamber music is a hard sell. I’ve been a fan of it for over 30 years, but 

America is, truly, in a disadvantaged state. Music education in the public 

school system has been eviscerated for years. We have no Leonard 

Bernstein who, in my lifetime, took the great unwashed and informed it as

 to the glories of music. So, where do you feel that you fit into this 

continuum?


E. D.: The New York Chamber Music Festival, which I recently founded, is

 already respected and followed with interest by a number of musicians 

and reviewers. One of the participants called it “historic,” and we all 

devoted tons of rehearsal and preparation time. It seemed like the festival

 events were unstoppable, and no casualties could stand in the way. 

Rachel Barton Pine had endured serious surgery just days before her

 concert. Sam Magill had barely recovered from an incapacitating hand 

injury. Pascal Rogé had traveled from Japan only hours before his festival

 appearance. Yet no one cancelled, no one complained, and no one 

seemed affected by the myriads of hardships. Everyone was concerned 

mainly with how to perform in the most passionate and convincing way. 

Passion, in my opinion, is the common denominator, running like a stormy

 river through our festival, pulsating wildly within its core. Performing with 

passion and abandon the works that we believe in is our mission and our 

striving. My vision for this festival is to have extremely varied programs, 

where beautiful “audience favorites” are presented alongside rarely 

performed gems, by a variety of instrumentalists and chamber groups. In 

our inaugural first season of just six concerts, we have already presented

 one world premiere and three New York premieres, as well as diverse 

groups, including a brass quintet and a jazz string quartet. Chamber 

music wears many hats, whether created by John Coltrane or by 

Beethoven. In just these six concerts we presented a tremendously great 

variety of composers, from Albinoni, Bach, Handel, and Pisendel, to 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

TEN BEST RECORDINGS of 2009

                       by Gene Gaudette

ALFANO: CELLO SONATA / CONCERTO [TRIO] FOR VIOLIN, PIANO AND CELLO

CoverElmira Darvarovaviolin / Samuel Magill, cello / Scott Dunn, piano
Recorded at M&I Studios New York

Naxos 8.570928 (CD)

Darvarova, Magill and Dunn make you wonder where — and why — these outstanding late romantic works have been hiding all these years.

Perhaps part of the reason is the chequered reputation of Alfano, who was tasked by Ricordi with the thankless job of composing final scenes for Giacomo Puccini's Turandot following that composer's death. I find Alfano's ending immensely satisfying, even in the truncated version usually recorded (you can hear the complete verasion in a few recordings, most notably the "Forbidden City" production — and there is an even longer unpublished version recorded about twenty-two years ago for a Josephine Barstow "Opera Finales" CD on Decca that I would love to see staged). The bad rap stems from Toscanini's behavior leading up to the opera's debut, culminating in his stopping the work where Puccini's music ended, making a comment on the composer's death — and then walking off the podium. I don't care how much Toscanini liked and admired Puccini; his conduct in this case was unprofessional, selfish, and arrogant. It also damaged Alfano's reputation unjustly.

Many critics have compared the present works to the chamber music of Ravel. I find stronger parallels with music of Alfano's contemporaries, particularly Malipiero, Respighi, and de Sabata. This is Italian romantic music at its finest, played with passion and commitment and beautifully recorded.








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THE STRAD:
Darvarova produces a silky-smooth, voluptuous sound ideal for the concerto's meticulous opulence. Impassioned advocacy
.....hauntingly beautiful.

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Franco ALFANO (1875-1954) 
Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano (1932) [28:24] 
Sonata for Cello and Piano (1925) [31:42] 
Elmira Darvarova (violin); Samuel Magill (cello); Scott Dunn (piano) 
rec. June 2008, M & I Studios, NY, USA 
NAXOS 8.570928 [60:06] 

Alfano’s 1925 Cello Sonata was a commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, though its first performance didn’t materialise until three years later in Rome. It’s a big, powerful work written, like the majority of Alfano’s chamber music, on a self-confident and expansive canvas. It’s also deeply expressive, and has strong meditative qualities that make it an intriguing peripheral piece in the cellistic programming armoury. Being Alfano there are also powerfully vocalised melodies as well, as the composer loses no opportunity to explore the full compass of the instrument. Whether Elysian or surly, the first movement is a template of the sonata as a whole – wide-ranging emotively and with virtuosic elements imbued for both instruments. The slow movement is not just the ‘gentle lullaby’ hinted at in the notes because it has its fair degree of eruptive passages – plenty of fast, twitchy writing, and, as ever, mood changeability is omnipresent. The finale is powerful and intense once more. There’s a species of Irish-sounding folk melody coursing through its veins but it falters and ushers in a finale brooding soliloquy. It ends a work of real introspection; in ethos it’s rather late-Debussian, but flecked with hot-house and verismo melodic stamp. 

The companion work is the Concerto, which might hint at an allegiance with Chausson, though it’s one that doesn’t fully materialise. What it does share with the latter’s Concerto, at least, is a sense of space, of tension and passionate sweep. In other respects this trio – premiered in 1933 – is a bold and extrovert work and offers other succulent pleasures. It’s sinuous, rich in glissandi, tremolandi, and moments of baroque-antique sounding passages, that vie with rich unison playing to titillate the ear. As before Alfano knows how to prepare for, and spin, a potent soliloquy. Above all one admires Alfano’s strong sense of narrative development. He laces the central movement with ‘fantastico’ voicings; leering in part, but hinting at both the folkloric and Ravel as well. The slithery Bacchanal is exemplary in its weirdness. The finale reverts to the columnar glory of ‘Old Rome’ – vigorous, exacting and exciting, though the least compelling thematically of the three movements. 

This is music that thrives on assertive but subtle musicianship, and fortunately it has a fine match in the Naxos trio, who acquit themselves splendidly. There are no moments of faltering or tentativeness, either with regard to the idiom or technically. With a suitably warm acoustic, this off-beat offering racks up high marks. 

Jonathan Woolf



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                FANFARE MAGAZINE

ALFANO Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano. Cello Sonata ? Samuel Magill (vc); Scott Dunn (pn); Elmira Darvarova (vln) NAXOS 8.570928 (60:06)

                     Review by William Zagorski

These days Franco Alfano (1875–1954) is remembered more for his controversial and much maligned 1926 completion of Puccini’s Turandot than for his own well-crafted and often quite striking music. His career started promisingly. In 1904, his opera Risurrezione, based on Tolstoy's last full-lenght novel, made him internationally famous (see Henry Fogel's review in Fanfare 28:4). In 1918, he rose to the directorship of Liceo Musicale, Bologns, and two years later helped to found the society Musica Nova. His career remained on the ascendancy until 1926, when Toscanini's de facto damnation of his completion of Turandot made him an odd man out in Italian music. Add to this that two of his contemporaries, Malipiero and Respighi, were changing the focus of Italian music from opera to purely instrumental, while Alfano continued doggedly in the operatic realm with Madonna imperia (1927), Cyrano de Bergerac (1936), Don Juan de Manara (1941), Il dottor Antonia (1949), Vesuvius (1950), and, Sakúntala (1952). Then further add that Alfano was on favorable terms with Mussolini's fascist government and one has a pretty good recipe for his subsequent obscurity. 

Then there is the music itself, as illustrated by these two chamber works—soft edged, introspective, and quietly luminous in a most Debussian manner. Cellist Samuel Magill, in his liner notes to this release, points out that Alfano was half French (on his maternal side), and spent the years from 1899 until about 1905 in Paris, where he composed light music for the Folies Bergère. It is plain from these two pieces that he soaked up the atmosphere and found it most congenial. The earlier of these two works, the Cello Sonata, was commissioned in 1928 by Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. It is a tour de force in its exploitation of the cello's full compass and coloristic possibilities. The high A-string writing makes it seem a super violin, and the use of harmonics in combination with quiet sustaining pedaled piano figurations creates mments that would have made both Ravel and Debussy proud. It is a long and discursive work that opens serenly, as if to say "I will reveal a great mystery", and then travels from the elementally abstract toward the more and more intelligible; unfathomable mystery gives way to unbridled passion, and then to a moment of sublime peace. 

The Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano of 1932 is similar to the Cello Sonata, but given the third instrument, the violin, it is richer in tonal possibilities. Its opening revealing a kinship with Renaissance polyphony, indeed farther back than that, shows how easily those languages can dovetail into that of the French Impressionists. Alfano, like Bruckner and Brahms, was an antiquarian. In both of these works, Debussy’s idea that pure sonority should be an element of music equal with melody, harmony, and rhythm, is written large.

All three performers are excellent and play with razor-edged accuracy, passion, and insight in these two world-premiere recordings. The recording, alas, is harsh in its upper register, requiring treble cut on my system, but, on the other hand, it reveals everything, as if under a microscope. The piano, however, is splendidly registered throughout. 

                       William Zagorski

 

 


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