Piero Gamba / Ruggiero Ricci

Bizet-Sarasate: Carmen Fantaisie; Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen: Saint-Saëns: Havanaise; etc.

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Bizet-Sarasate: Carmen Fantaisie; Sarasate: Zigeunerweisen: Saint-Saëns: Havanaise; etc. Review

by Mike D. Brownell

While it can be frustrating when recording labels throw in an extra piece of music on an album just because there happens to be enough time left, it's equally irksome when they completely shortchange you by using just barely half of the available space. Such is the case with this album, with a total time of about 38 minutes. Granted, the original Decca program is preserved, but Ricci recorded extensively and surely another of his bravura performances could have been added.

All that aside, the performance of these virtuoso works by Sarasate and Saint-Saëns are quite exciting. Ricci's performance is what might be expected from a performance of this era -- a little too much vibrato, a little too much bow pressure, and an occasional cavalier disregard for intonation and articulation -- all things that make recordings from this era so very stimulating. Ricci's performances are all about character and are a perfect match for all four works here. Nothing is held back; every shift and every frenetic tempo is a huge risk. But these risks are what will keep listeners on the edge of their seats. This recording is not for anyone looking for flawless execution, but is highly recommended for listeners seeking too hear a skilled violinist having fun making music and doing an incredible job of it.

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