Variations on opera themes and opera fantasies have been around about as long as operas themselves. One particularly popular use of such works is for virtuoso show pieces for string players, from the double bass right up to the violin. Several violin virtuosos have even taken upon themselves to write such fantasies for their own use. This Delos album by violinist Haik Kazazyan and pianist Andrey Shibko features six such works (with the exception of Franz Waxman, who was not a violinist). The liner notes suggest that the works on the program could be used as encores, but with all but one selection clocking in at well over 10 minutes, such a use would make for a rather presumptuous encore. Ranging from Gershwin to Rossini to Rimsky-Korsakov, the program gives listeners a wide variety of subject matter from a surprising array of violinists. Kazazyan possesses a strong technique to deliver the highly virtuosic demands of the program, but his playing is not without blemishes. Most significantly detracting, however, is Delos' recorded sound quality. Microphone placement appears to have been quite close to the violin and the piano, so there's little warmth or resonance to the sound, making production noise, string crossings, and bowing missteps all the more obvious. Still, the repertoire is entertaining and some of the works on the program are not frequently recorded.
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AllMusic Review by Mike D. Brownell