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Violin - Debut Recording

Violin - Debut Recording


This was Vanessa-Mae's first album. It was recorded in Oct. 1990, at the time of her 12th birthday, although not released until 1991. It was recorded on the Trittco label, and the proceeds from its sales went to charity.
See Tchaikovsy & Beethoven Violin Concerto for general comments about the three Trittco albums
This album consists of four medium-length works, two of them in classical concerto form. All four are serious classical works with conventional interpretations.
Mozart Players
All four works were performed with the Mozart Players, conducted by Anthony Inglis. This is an orchestra that specializes in the work of 18th century composers such as Mozart and Haydn, and was founded in 1949. Vanessa-Mae began her career as a soloist with the Mozart Players, and went with them on a tour of the Far East starting in January 1991. (That was after the recording of this album but before its release.) She was the youngest artist ever to have appeared with them in concert on record.
Track List
1. Carmen Fantasy (13:35)
Kabalevksy - Violin Concerto
2. Allegro (4:24)
3. Andante (5:01)
4. Vivace Giocoso (5:51)
Mozart - `Adelaide' Concerto
5. Allegro (7:21)
6. Adagio (7:11)
7. Allegro (4:22)
8. Faust Fantasy (16:20)
Total: 64:51
With the London Mozart Players, conducted by Anthony Inglis
Recorded October 1990
Initially released March 1991
Fantasy on Carmen, like Vanessa-Mae's own Fantasy on Turandot, is the essence of a three-hour opera condensed down to 10-15 minutes by a violin virtuoso. A "Fantasy" in music is a work that is a transcription of some previously existing musical work into a new form. Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908) was a violin virtuoso, who transcribed the voice and orchestra music of Bizet's famous opera into violin music.
The music is divided into several sections, some of which are separated by pauses and some not. The Trittco CD recording has all of it on one track, however. The sections are a Prelude and four Movements, which correspond to the orchestral prelude and four Acts of Bizet's opera. Bizet was French but the opera is set in Spain and has a Spanish flavor; and Sarasate was Spanish.
Synopsis of the Opera and the Fantasy
I've seen the opera although I don't have the program notes now, so I apologize if I have anything wrong in the following. The main character is Carmen, a fiery and seductive gypsy women.
The first section is the Prelude, which introduces all the major themes of the entire work. This corresponds to the prelude of the opera, in which the orchestra plays to set the mood, but before the characters come on stage. Bizet's prelude is brief summary of the entire opera, and Sarasate's prelude is an even briefer (about three minutes) introduction of the entire Fantasy.
The second part corresponds to Act I. The Prelude continues into this movement without pause. In Act I, Carmen flirts with some Spanish soldiers and seduces one particular soldier, Don Jose. Sarasate's music in this movement has a slinky, seductive quality. It is about two minutes long.
After a pause, the music for Act II begins. This is a slow, very sad part. It is called "Lento assai"; lento means slow tempo but I don't know what "assai" means. Don Jose has fallen in love with Carmen, but he is torn between her and responsibility to his fiancé, Michaela, who loves him very much. Carmen leaves him and finds another soldier instead.
Act III is called "Allegro Moderato", meaning moderately lively; the same for Act I. It has no pause but is announced by a quickening of the tempo. If memory serves me, this is after Don Jose has helped Carmen escape from a punishment, and they flee into the mountains for refuge. The famous "Habenera" part is in this part, although the common theme throughout "Carmen" is similar.
Act IV is the climax where everybody in the opera commits suicide or otherwise gets killed. The Act takes place outside the entrance to a bullring, and opens with a festive bullfight, before Don Jose arrives at the scene. Then the mood is one of desperation. There are some gunshots, then a chase scene, then some more gunshots at the very end. Sarasate calls this movement "Moderato", but some parts of it are very fast.
Sarah Chang's Fantasy on Carmen
"Fantasy on Carmen" was the first track on the first albums of both Vanessa-Mae and Sarah Chang.
The version of "Fantasy on Carmen" on Sarah Chang's DEBUT album is a slightly different version, edited by Zino Francescatti. It is a little shorter. Also, this version is scored for violin and piano not violin and orchestra. I think that the orchestra adds a lot of color to the work, which is missing in the piano accompaniment. For example, tambourines give the work more of a Spanish atmosphere. On the other hand, the violin stands out more when the accompaniment is less, which is probably why Sarah Chang did both her DEBUT and SIMPLY SARAH entire albums with only piano accompaniment, no orchestra.
See KIDS' CLASSICS for more comments about Sarah Chang's DEBUT album.
Criticizing the work of a nine-year old or 10 year old is very hard for an adult to do, so I'm going to pretend that it was done by an adult and evaluate it by adult standards. For a girl of that age, of course, the music is astonishing and that's all you can say.
Sarah Chang's playing is similar to Vanessa-Mae's playing on the VIOLIN album for the most part. In Act III she uses some different techniques of playing. The big difference is that she is very much faster in the chase scene towards the end of Act IV. Sarah Chang's playing in this part is so fast that it is very impressive, making the listener wonder "How can her hands do that!?" However, it's not "Carmen". The violin fireworks have little to do with what the music is about; it does not give the mood of the opera, and is not according to Sarasate's instructions "Allegro Moderato".
Vanessa-Mae's LIVE AT BERLIN videotape recording
Vanessa-Mae recorded Carmen Fantasy again, much later, on her LIVE AT BERLIN videotape. This version is my favorite of the three. OK, it's not quite a fair comparison, because Vanessa-Mae was 17, almost 18, at that time. Ordinarily it wouldn't be a great shock that a 17-year-old is better than a 9-year-old or a 12-year-old. But it is relevant to point it out here, because many critics think that Vanessa-Mae has regressed. Also, some might question whether or not ireally great music can be performed while standing in front of an orchestra clad in a red dress so short and tight that it could work as a swimsuit. However, Vanessa-Mae's performance on the videotape shows a sensitivity to the subject matter that the earlier performances do not have, and it makes a leap from being a violinist playing a music about Carmen, to the violinist becoming Carmen. That could only work in a live performance, and nobody except Vanessa-Mae could have pulled it off.
The music itself is quite different, not just the style of performance. The composition credits on the back are not just Sarasate, but also Vanessa-Mae herself, plus orchestration by James Cameron. Vanessa-Mae has added several new parts which were not in Sarsate's FANTASY ON CARMEN. First, Vanessa-Mae's live version adds a classical guitar solo part at the beginning of the Prelude. This is for theatrical purposes, so that Vanessa-Mae can make her entrance onto the stage while the music is playing, much as Carmen does in the opera. Also, there are two additional short movements, after the Prelude. They are based on songs from Bizet's opera but were not in Sarasate's original Fantasy. Vanessa-Mae's new version of CARMEN FANTASY is longer than the original or the Francescatti version that Sarah Chang played.
Kabalevsky Violin Concerto
This concerto sounds very "Russian" to me; probably it is based somehow on Russian folk music. Dimitry Kabalevsky was a 20th century Soviet violinist and composer who was a contemporary of Prokofiev and Shostakovich, but this concerto doesn't sound anything like their style.
The work is in classical concerto form, which is to say that it is in three movements separated by pauses: fast - slow - fast. The third movement, labeled "Vivace Giocoso" is funny because it has what sounds like a finale several times, only to have the music start up again and continue.
Mozart's Adelaide Concerto
This concerto is NOT named after the city in Australia -- Mozart was from Austria, the one without kangaroos! Actually, it was named after Princess Adelaide, the young daughter of King Louis XV of France. This concerto is a musical portrait about a sweet and simple young girl. (For comparison with a very different musical portrait, listen to Shostakovich's 10th Symphony which is about Stalin.)
Mozart wrote this concerto when he was only 10 years old. Therefore, it is appropriate that it is being performed by an 11-year-old, including a cadenza written by that 11-year-old.
The first movement, "Allegro" (quick and lively), sounds like a waltz and gives the image of a ball in an 18th century court. The second movement, "Adagio" (in a slow tempo), is a sweet and simple melody. The third movement is again "Allegro", true to classical form for concertos. This is played much faster than the first movement.
Overall, this Mozart concerto has a very different sound than the concertos by later composers, and also different from concertos composed by Mozart when he was older. It has a purity and simplicity to it, as only a child would write.
Vanessa-Mae's Cadenza
This piece contains the first work ever composed by Vanessa-Mae, in the form of a cadenza. A cadenza is an extended section of a concerto for a soloist to show off his or her technique. In Mozart's time these were not written by the composer of the concerto, but instead were either written or improvised by the soloist. In modern times, they are composed, and the solo violinist often uses a cadenza written by a third party. For example, in her performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto on her third album, Vanessa-Mae uses cadenzas that were composed by Fritz Kreisler. But for Mozart's Adelaide Concerto, Vanessa-Mae wrote her own cadenza. This is towards the end of the first movement, just before the orchestra comes back for the finale. It is quite short, only about 15 seconds long, and you will miss it unless you listen closely. It is not much like the long, complex cadenzas in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. Vanessa-Mae's cadenza is sweet & simple, appropriate to this concerto.
The fact that Vanessa-Mae wrote this cadenza at the age of 11 shows that she really is a very gifted composer. However, it also proves that her genius is not anywhere near equal to that of Mozart, who wrote the other 18 ˝ minutes of this concerto at the age of 10.
Weinawski's "Faust Fantasy"
Like Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy" and Vanessa-Mae's own "Fantasy on Turandot" (on CHINA GIRL), Weinawski's "Faust Fantasy" is the essence of a long opera transcribed from voice to a fairly short violin work. Also, like them, it emphasizes virtuoso techniques and was written by a violinist. This work is based on Gounod's opera FAUST, which is in turn based on a classic German novel about a man who sells his soul to the Devil.
Henryk Weinawksi was a violin virtuoso of the mid-1800s, after Paganini but carrying on the traditions of Paganini.
Faust Fantasy has several sections with varying moods. Some parts are very fast, and sound a bit like parts of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. It's an interesting piece, which is not often heard.


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