violinist, recording artist, podcaster & writer

• SEP OCT 2018 - Review - Fanfare - Robert Markow

STRAUSS Violin Sonata. “Epheu.” LEKEU Violin Sonata. “Sur un tombe.” ● Rachel Kolly d’Alba (vn); Christian Chamorel (pn) ● INDÉSENS 098 (64 :37)

The pairing of these two sonatas is a natural, as both composers were just 22 when they wrote them, and just six years apart at that ̶ Strauss in 1886, Lekeu in 1892. Their years of birth are separated by six years as well (Strauss in 1864, Lekeu in 1870), but Strauss lived to a ripe old 85 while Lekeu died one day after his 24th birthday. Each sonata represents one of its composer’s earliest successes. While both are worthy additions to the violin-and-piano repertory, Strauss’s is clearly the finer work, a compelling lyrical outpouring capable of holding the listener’s attention for its entire duration, while Lekeu’s requires a bit of effort to sustain interest within each movement. Both sonatas are well represented on disc, though this release seems to be the only one to pair them. As a bonus, one song from each composer arranged by the performers is included, in each case contemporaneous with the respective sonata.

Adrian Corleonis (Fanfare 38:6) and Robert Maxham (34:1 and 36:4) have both weighed in with fine words about Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly d’Alba. I’m prepared to go out on a limb and assert that she is without question one of the two or three best violinists of her generation I have heard recently. D’Alba has that magical touch that commands attention from the first sounds that strike the ears – a shimmering, embracing tone (she plays a 1732 Strad), a fast vibrato that recalls Heifetz, a sense that there is no effort involved in her playing, a huge range of colors and dynamics, and a capacity for unlimited expressivity without resorting to exaggeration.

Christian Chamorel (also Swiss), has been her pianist for a quarter of a century now (they met when they were twelve and thirteen), and it shows. They are of a single mind musically, each innately sensitive to the playing of the other. Chamorel plays a Steinway D, whose rich, big-boned sound perfectly complements d’Alba’s.

This is definitely Want List material. Wikipedia (though not d’Alba’s web site) reports that a Tchaikovsky album is due out later this year. I can’t wait. Robert Markow