Instrument Of The Devil / Rachel Barton, Patrick Sinozich
In earlier reviews, I've noted a slenderness in Rachel Barton's tone (specifically in Handel Sonatas, Cedille CDR90000 032, Fanfare 21:1 and in concertos by black composers, Cedille CDR 90000 035, 21:5). She must have been washing down steaks with raw eggs in the meantime, because her sound in her new release could knock you out of your seat, as at the beginning of Saint-Saëns's Danse macabre or the end of Milstein's Mephisto Waltz (after Liszt). Overcoming one technical challenge after another with intimidating self-confidence, she and pianist Patrick Sinozich create a sinister atmosphere in Saint-Saëns's Danse. Tartini's original version of his "Devil's Trill," no longer such a novelty as when Eduard Melkus recorded it on LP (Archiv 2533 086), still hasn't received the same lengthy roster of sulfurous recordings as has Kreisler's edition. Andrew Manze showed how far a half-cracked imagination could take the sonata (Harmonia Mundi USA, HMU 907213, 21:5), but Barton has achieved a similarly exciting and somewhat more ingratiating effect on her modern instrument (actually not so modern—the "ex-Lobkowicz" Antonius and Hieronymous Amati of 1617, beautifully represented in the booklet)—simply by making the most of the original (and spikier) harmonies at tempos that are, in the fast movements, at least, among the quickest I've heard. And although her ornamentation of the repeated sections hews closer to the traditional line than did Manze's, it's both idiomatic and highly theatrical. Heifetz's adoption of Bazzini's Dance of the Goblins nearly knocked it out of the ring; and it occasions one of the few unfavorable comparisons with other artists: Even if she could match Heifetz's speed in the left-hand pizzicatos, Barton's dancing seems left-footed. But there's no such heavy labor in her daunting gallop though the night in Ernst's Erlkönig transcription. Leila Josefowicz (Philips 446 700-2) made more of the dialog between the riders, but hardly left the listener so breathless. Barton's performance charges with a frenzy similar to Ingolf Turban's (Claves CD 50-9613, 20:6). The violin is no Et? clarinet, and it's as hard to imagine any wholly successful transcription of Berlioz's Witches' Sabbath. Barton and Sinozich's cauldron does occasionally bubble, though, with the performers' enthusiasm as the main ingredient. The inclusion of Stravinsky's Devil's Dance in his own trio version is a stroke of macabre genius, and Sarasate's Faust Fantasy, less familiar than its counterpart by Wieniawski, is exceptionally welcome.
The detailed notes, excellent photography, as well as the larger-than-life presence the engineers have accorded the performers, enhance the appeal of a release that deserves a place in every violinist's library. A frightfully good, thoroughly entertaining fire and brimstone recital, warmly (or, in keeping with the theme, hotly) recommended. Look out, Jack Nicholson!
-- Robert Maxham, Fanfare, Issue 22:3 (Jan/Feb 1999)
Catalog Number: CDR 041
Composer: Antonio Bazzini, Camille Saint-Saëns, Franz Liszt, Giuseppe Tartini, Hector Berlioz, Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Igor Stravinsky, Manuel de Falla, Niccolò Paganini, Pablo de Sarasate
Performer: David Schrader, John Bruce Yeh, John Mark Rozendaal, Patrick Sinozich, Rachel Barton Pine