- Méditation, for violin & orchestra (or other arrangement) (from opera "Thaïs")
Until the 2016 release of this album on Pentatone, violinist Arabella Steinbacher had mostly explored heavy repertory of the 19th and 20th centuries on recordings of Strauss, Franck, Shostakovich. She shifts gears with this collection of virtuoso favorites that might easily have appeared on a concert program of a century ago, or nearly that long. It's not a program of encores, which is more common today. The works on this program are substantial and, with the exception of Massenet's famous "Méditation," between nine and 15 minutes in length. The novelty here is the opening "Carmen Fantasie" by Franz Waxman, written for Jascha Heifetz and edited by that great violinist. Despite her disclaimer, Steinbacher takes after Heifetz stylistically with her soaring, Apollonian tone, and this work fits her well. Another highlight is an unusually light, agile performance of Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending," rather quick, but always seeming under control and not rushed. Steinbacher has plenty of competition here and elsewhere, but in the main, her performances have the refined quality that her classic models achieved, even in broadly popular repertory. She picks her material well, avoiding her polar opposite, Fritz Kreisler. Pentatone's spacious sound, recorded in an unspecified location, delivers on its audiophile claims, and Steinbacher's Booth Stradivarius sounds great. A recommended look back at the age of the star violin virtuoso.