Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst was nothing more than a stupendously talented violinist and a staggeringly inventive transcriber of other composers' music. And as this 2008 Hyperion recording by violinist Ilya Gringolts shows, that is more than enough to sustain his career during his lifetime and just enough to maintain his reputation after his death. The program here features Ernst's three greatest hits -- his jaw-dropping "Variations on The Last Rose of Summer," his eye-popping "Grand Caprice" on Schubert's Erlkönig, and his death-defying "Fantasie brilliant" on themes from Rossini's Otello -- plus his lesser known though no less impressive Élégie sur la mort d'un object chéri. Gringolts has the strength, sensitivity, lucidity, and above all the virtuosity to handle Ernst's staggeringly difficult music. Double stops, triple stops, multiple lines, right-hand arpeggios, left-hand pizzicatos, harmonics: whatever Ernst's music wants, the young Russian violinist supplies it in full measure. Ashley Wass, who had heretofore provided Naxos with a plethora of brilliantly played performances of English piano music, proves a finely balanced and wholly supportive accompanist for Gringolts in the Élégie and Otello "Fantasie." But to get a real taste of what Ernst and Gringolts are about, skip ahead to the final track, the Erlkönig Caprice. If Gringolts' stunning performance of its maniacal moto perpetua amazes and astonishes, the rest of the disc will appeal, too. Hyperion's digital sound is clear and clean, but perhaps understandably it focuses closely on the violin and not quite enough on the piano.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard
|Polyphonic Studies (6) for violin solo|