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Hyperion Records

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Violin Player to the Moon by Hans Thoma (1839-1924)
Private Collection / Bridgeman Art Library, London
Track(s) taken from CDA67619
Recording details: November 2006
Crear Studio, Argyll, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Philip Hobbs
Release date: March 2008
Total duration: 14 minutes 33 seconds

'Ilya Gringolts has the measure of both the virtuosity and the romantic sensibility—his performance of the fantasy is quite outstanding … he plays the lyrical passages with an intense commitment that's reminiscent of Heifetz. His imaginative grasp of the music's expressive character makes for a gripping account of the Élégie … and the unaccompanied items fare just as well … Gringolts' technical command, beautiful intonation and exciting, deep involvement with the music make for a great listening experience' (Gramophone)

'Blessings on Ilya Gringolts for having the cojones, as well as the fingers, to record Ernst's Six Polyphonic Studies for Solo Violin … the performances are among the greatest displays of virtuosity I have ever heard. Gringolts even supasses his teacher Itzhak Perlman in the magic fingers department' (American Record Guide)

'In the right hands, such as those belonging to Ilya Gringolts, it actually achieves a degree of musical viability … what profundity there is comes from the listener's shivering realization that the humanly impossible is being achieved right before his ears, and apparently without effort. Even the formidable Midori, in her Carnegie Hall recital, doesn't make us forget how absurdly difficult this work is, the way that Gringolts does … Gringolts's cantabile playing is as remarkable as his agility. Pianist Ashley Wass … is rock solid and always complementary' (International Record Review)

'His playing [Ernst] and his compositions astonished and delighted thousands. His transcription of Schubert's Erlkönig, played here with fiery vehemence by the young Russian violinist Ilya Gringolts, is a demonic tour de force worthy of Paganini himself' (The Sunday Times)

'Ilya Gringolts meets Ernst's formidable technical challenges with apparent ease, and his playing here is virtually flawless even in the most taxing flights of virtuosity … he also dispatches Ernst's transcription of Schubert's Erlkönig with breathtaking aplomb and close regard for the dark atmosphere and sinister detail of Goethe's poem. Pianist Ashley Wass provides sterling support in the accompanied works, especially in the soulful, recitative-like introduction of the Élégie, in which Gringolts is at his own lyrical and intimately expressive … violin virtuosity reigns supreme' (The Strad)

'No one has come close to equalling the technical prowess and musicality that Gringolts displays here' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Gringolts represents Ernst as a sensitive yet large-scale player, far removed from either empty display or stultifying classroom academicism. Nevertheless, he out-sparkles Ricci in the Second Study, which he takes at a tempo I would never have imagined possible … in the next Study, dedicated to Joachim, he slows down to reveal the full range of sentiment with which Ernst laced it … the Élégie … offers perhaps a purer strain of lyricism, and Gringolts, playing it with more panache than might be expected in such a work, makes its romantic rhetoric surprisingly convincing … Gringolts’s collection should be essential listening for violinists, offering a sort of authentic recreation that should interest much wider audiences as well; heartily recommended to them too' (Fanfare, USA)

'Violinists will marvel at the astonishing ability of Ilya Gringolts in getting his fingers around this music with pianist Ashley Wass' (Liverpool Daily Post)

'The playing must be heard to be believed … Ernst's music bristles with all imaginable—and some unimaginable—instrumental tricks … Gringolts performs all these hair-raising feats with apparent ease. His intonation never falters, his tone reamins pure … most admirably, he makes the acrobatics sound like music, with melodies that sing and soar, elegant phrasing, tonal variety, charm and expressiveness' (Strings, USA)

Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d'Otello de G Rossini, Op 11
published in 1839; originally for violin and orchestra; using themes from Act 1 of Rossini's 1816 opera, plus Desdemona's Willow Song Romance from the final act

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Closely contemporary with the Élégie, but of very different temper, is Ernst’s Othello Fantasy, Op 11, or to give it its full title the Fantaisie brillante sur la Marche et la Romance d’Otello de G. Rossini. Published in 1839 as a work for violin and orchestra, this brilliant essay in operatic reminiscence quarries its thematic material from Rossini’s opera (first performed in Naples in 1816), taking melodies from the first act and also the celebrated Romance (the ‘Willow Song’) sung by Desdemona in the final act. Though the result is a feast of violinistic pyrotechnics, one of the pleasures of the work is the subtle, almost organic way in which Ernst links its various sections and themes. After an Andante non troppo instrumental introduction in which we hear the beginning of Rossini’s Act I March, the violin enters in lyrical vein but with increasing brilliance, working up through double-stopping, chromatic scales in thirds, and a passage in octaves, to a short cadenza. The March is then stated in full, followed by a pair of bravura variations on the tune, including a striking passage in harmonics. An interlude leads into Desdemona’s Romance, which the violin proceeds to embellish with highly expressive decoration, accelerating to a further cadenza. A third and final variation on the March leads back to a reprise of the introductory material before a thrilling conclusion.

from notes by Calum MacDonald © 2008

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