Sarah Nemtanu


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"Purist friends, please don't read the following" is the defiant opening salvo in Romanian-French violinist Sarah Nemtanu's notes for this release, and she might have added that purists should avoid listening to the album as well. The remainder of the listening public, however, should be very intrigued. Buyers coming to the album online might guess that the program is a conventional set of Eastern European and gypsy-oriented pieces that might have been played half a century ago. But sample well, focusing especially on tracks 3 and 8, so that you know what you're getting into. Nemtanu's album also attempts to add modern crossover elements to the traditional, not to say hoary, form, of the gypsy-classical concert, and she makes several unusual moves and one radical one. Some of the album, however, is played straight, and there's an unusual continuum from traditional to experimental at work. In the former category is the Violin Sonata No. 3 in A minor, Op. 25, "On Popular Romanian Themes," of Georges Enescu, played by Nemtanu and pianist Romain Descharmes in a straightforward way that doesn't exaggerate the gypsy elements; Ravel's Tzigane is also done as written. Then the fun starts; Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20, has an added part for cimbalom. Moving into left field, you come to four performances that employ the talents of Canadian-born French keyboardist Chilly Gonzales, who adds elements of electronica to Vittorio Monti's well-worn Czárdás, Ravel's Berceuse sur le nom de Gabriel Fauré, Georges Boulanger's Avant de mourir, track 9, is given its more familiar U.S. title of My Prayer, and, most unusually, the "Blues" movement from Ravel's Sonata for violin and piano of 1927. This piece gets from Gonzales what Nemtanu rather unfortunately terms "ethno-percussion"; the melody is recast as a piece of Ethiopian pop. This is a risky move, for it seems not to go with the rest of the music on the album, but Nemtanu swings for the fences and succeeds; the piece in this form is a natural expansion on the basic energies radiating from the meeting point between France and Romania that has animated all the music up to that point. Nemtanu here hatches and works out in some detail an absolutely original concept of how classical music and internationally flavored electronics might cross-fertilize, and her efforts are well worth hearing. Notes are in French and English.

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