Elizabeth Wallfisch

Pierre Rode: 24 Caprices en forme d'etudes

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Although little known outside of violin circles today, Pierre Rode was highly prolific as a composer, well-traveled as a touring violinist, and influential as a violin pedagogue. The vast majority of his compositional output was written for his own instrument, including 13 violin concertos, 10 string quartets, numerous variation sets, violin, and -- perhaps most significantly -- a set of 24 Caprices en forme d'études. While Rode seeks to elevate his works beyond being simply technical exercises by emphasizing "Caprices" in the title, their musical merits are somewhat debatable. They are certainly more musical and less overtly didactic than the well-known Kreutzer Etudes, but all but the most stellar performances can leave them appearing rather uninteresting upon straight-through listening. Violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch, who has made a name for herself as an accomplished Baroque violinist and conductor, tries her hand at Rode's 24 Caprices on this CPO album. Her execution shows her to be a performer of keen musical instinct as she infuses as much life and interest into the score as possible. Given her credentials, however, it is surprising to find a less than flawless technical performance, especially given the nature of the music. What's most detrimental to this album, though, is sound quality -- Wallfisch's and CPO's. Wallfisch's 1750 Petrus Paul de Vitor violin is painfully bright and at times even shrill, though Wallfisch does not seem to make efforts to tone it down. CPO's recorded sound is somewhat echoic and also does not make an effort to warm up the violin's grating characteristics.

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