Anastasia Khitruk

Léon de Saint-Lubin: Virtuoso Works for Violin, Vol. 1

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Although he knew Beethoven and Schubert, and was directly inspired by Paganini, Léon de Saint-Lubin has almost been entirely forgotten. He was championed 100 years ago by Hungarian violinist Jenö Hubay, who has come back into vogue himself, and now he himself is the subject of a revival attempt by Russian-American violinist Anastasia Khitruk. She has the technical equipment to deal with the thornier passages of the Theme originale et Etude de S. Thalberg, Op. 45a (track 6), but for the most part Saint-Lubin wasn't a virtuoso in the Paganini mold. Despite his French name, he was born in Italy and spent most of his career in Vienna and Berlin. His music is notable for its stylistic range rather than for any exhaustive exploration of a particular idiom. Khitruk's program is well organized in this regard. It begins with the Grand Duo Concertant, Op. 49, published in 1847 after Schubert's music was beginning to become famous. Lyrical but formally clear, it is a sonata in all but name. Khitruk includes a pair of pieces based on operatic themes, by Donizetti and Auber; balances the Thalberg study with a sober if not terribly spiritual Adagio religioso, Op. 44; and rounds things off with four short pieces of the kind that would have been the stock-in-trade of any violinist plying mercantile and noble audiences during the first half of the nineteenth century. With the possible exception of the Grand Duo Concertant, it doesn't stick with you for long after hearing it, but the album as a whole fills in a useful swath of background and does it in an attractive way.

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