Jonathan Carney

Kreisler, Sarasate: Parlor Pieces

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The Royal Philharmonic Masterworks Audiophile Collection isn't especially outstanding in the engineering department, and this release has nothing to do with Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Violinist Jonathan Carney and pianist Gloria Carney, son and mother interestingly enough, are American. These recordings were made in the 1990s and released in 1997 by the mass-marketeer Sheridan Square Entertainment. The booklet bills the music as "parlor pieces," but in fact these works were performed by the great violin virtuosos Fritz Kreisler and Pablo de Sarasate in concerts attended by thousands of people. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson take the afternoon off in "The Red-Headed League" to hear Sarasate play. They're durable crowd-pleasers, hoary perhaps, but fine tests of a young player's technique. They've even enjoyed a certain revival as modernist asceticism has declined. Plenty of discs have been devoted to one or the other, but they make a good program together, with the variety of technical display in the Sarasate pieces balanced by the elaborate sentiment in Kreisler favorites like the Liebesleid-Liebesfreud (Love's Suffering -- Love's Joy) pair. The Carney duo fares distinctly better with the former; Kreisler's lush tone is better served by Joshua Bell, who has championed the Austrian violinist. For that matter, there are stronger recordings of Sarasate, such as that by the young Chinese artist Tianwa Yang. As a budget release, however, this is suited for commute listening and the like. The booklet contains various errors; Sarasate was born in Pamplona, not Pamploma, and his Habanera is given a tilde where none belongs.

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