- Sonata for gran viola & orchestra in C minor, MS 70
- Harold en Italie (Harold in Italy), symphony for viola & orchestra, H. 68 (Op. 16)
- Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict, opera, H. 138
For this all-Romantic CD, Vladimir Ashkenazy presents works by two figures who were friends and colleagues, as well as musical ground breakers, Hector Berlioz and Niccolò Paganini. The vivacious "Overture to Béatrice et Bénédict" opens the program with a fine display piece for the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, though the ensemble is soon joined by violist David Aaron Carpenter for the two main works, Berlioz's "Harold in Italy" and Paganini's "Sonata for large viola and orchestra." "Harold in Italy" is a symphony loosely based on Lord Byron's "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," with an obbligato viola part that was intended for Paganini. However, he declined to play it because it did not give him enough virtuosic material. As a result, he composed the sonata, a quasi-concerto, to demonstrate his exceptional abilities on the viola. This album offers exceptional renditions of both works, because Carpenter plays with great skill and abundant energy, and he raises the modest viola to violinistic presence and power. Ashkenazy brings the orchestra to a high level of excitement, which is necessary to keep "Harold in Italy" from flagging in its slow sections. The sonata is filled with intensity and drama, and Carpenter and Ashkenazy deliver a fun performance that concludes the album in a jovial mood. Ondine's sound is bright, clear, and full, so the recording is thoroughly enjoyable.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Berlioz: Harold in Italy; Paganini: Sonata per la Gran Viola e Orchestra based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Vladimir Ashkenazy is perhaps best known as a world-class pianist, but this recording certainly makes the case that he should have been a conductor – on the podium (at least on this recording) he is a monster! And coupled with David Aaron Carpenter’s virtuosic Viola playing, this is must-have disc. The first piece is Hector Berlioz’ “Overture to Beatrice et Benedict, Op. 27”, and it is rollicking, fun, and a real joy to listen to. As indicated in the liner notes, the audience of the time must have known that a comedy was certainly to follow. The next piece is “Harold in Italy (Symphony with Viola obbligato), Op. 16” and it is stunning. Mr. Carpenter chooses to play the version of the solo part that was explicitly written for Paganini, appropriate given that the piece itself was commissioned by Paganini as he had just been given a Stradivari viola and wanted something to play on it! This four movement work certainly delivers, at times sensitive, then blindingly fast – a real tour-de-force for the gifted soloist, and Mr. Carpenter delivers. It is also the case that Mr. Ashkenazy insures that the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra is a fitting partner, insuring that the soloist shines while at the same time driving the musical organism forward. This is a fantastic performance. The other selection on the disc is the “Sonata per la Gran Viola e Orchestra, Op. 35”, written by Paganini himself after he realized that “Harold in Italy” would not provide quite the opportunity for showmanship that he sought. This piece is full of vim, vigor, harmonics, and fireworks. This listener is envious of the lucky individuals that got to hear this first-hand from Paganini’s viola. Each variation in the 3rd movement has something new to offer, and demonstrates beyond any shadow of doubt that the viola is a powerful instrument in the hands of the gifted – and David Aaron Carpenter certainly fits that description. This disc is fantastic from the first track to the last. Very Highly Recommended!