The violin concertos of Belgian-born composer/virtuoso Henri Vieuxtemps have been recorded by various players, including the young Russian-American virtuoso Misha Keylin heard here. But these shorter pieces, which would have been the stock-in-trade of Vieuxtemps' active touring life (during one American tour he made 121 appearances in six months, without benefit of planes, automobiles, or in many cases trains), are a good deal rarer. They don't have the main virtue of the concertos, which is that there's a certain amount of structural interest to go with the Paganini-like fireworks, but they're a great deal of fun. Especially attractive for U.S. listeners, and perhaps even those beyond, is the Greeting to America, Op. 56, published posthumously but clearly written for one of Vieuxtemps' three U.S. tours; the notes (in English only) don't say which one. The piece lays out segments based on The Star-Spangled Banner and Yankee Doodle, the latter of which might seem an unlikely candidate for virtuoso violin treatment. But that's the charm of the work. Both the familiar tunes are introduced almost obliquely, with orchestral accompaniment to The Star-Spangled Banner avoiding the melody's straightforward implied harmonies; the violin single-handedly adds energy as each section proceeds, and the grand finale combines the two tunes, with the violin frenetically expanding on previous material. This 13-minute piece would make a delightful choice for patriotic celebrations and might well attract new subscribers for the presenting orchestra. The other three works are similarly structured, with an orchestral introduction designed to set up a big entrance for the soloist, and Keylin, who has a laserlike top register in the Heifetz mode, enthusiastically responds. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Mogrelia stays with him, and the sound is better than average for Naxos' Eastern European releases. A fine revival of music that has been almost forgotten.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim