Ayana Tsuji / Michael Halász / Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra

Charles-Auguste de Bériot: Violin Concertos Nos. 4, 6 and 7; Scène de ballet; Air varié No. 4 "Montagnard"

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The Belgian violinist Charles-Auguste de Bériot was a student of Viotti and the teacher of Vieuxtemps, making him something of a missing link in the French (or Franco-Belgian) violin school. His music has survived less vigorously than his pedagogical tracts, which are still used; the Scène de ballet, Op. 100, performed here is occasionally played. It's an attractive short work, and the Air varié also included is typical of that largely forgotten 19th century genre. But violinist Ayana Tsuji, just 20 when this album was released in 2017, and the Czech Chamber Orchestra of Pardubice make a good case for the revival of Bériot's concertos, of which he composed ten, all almost forgotten. They have some unusual techniques, including the use of harmonics, but they're probably less flashy than the music that came before and after Bériot. Where they impress is in their suavely elegant construction, evident in the products of this school down to Ysaÿe and beyond. The Violin Concerto No. 4 in D minor, Op. 46, is in a single movement. With its ricochet bowing, this is probably the most technically difficult piece on the disc; you can sample it to hear Tsuji's precocious mastery. The other two concertos are in the traditional three-movement structure, with two of the movements run together. Their structures do not exist simply to show off the violinist's technique, but rather let the virtuosity grow naturally out of the material. These concertos could profitably be programmed with Vieuxtemps, Saint-Saëns, or other Romantic virtuoso music, and Tsuji and her handlers at Naxos deserve credit for exhuming them.

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