|Emanuel Vardi plays The Virtuoso Viola. The first 14 of the 22 works on the CD are arranged for the Viola by Emanuel Vardi. All are played with Vardi's usual style and precision. Total playing time is approx. 74 minutes.|
The great viola player Emanuel Vardi is in his early nineties and any restoration of his recordings is to be welcomed and — moreover — valued, so august is his musicianship. He was never afraid to transcribe; indeed he was a consummate practitioner of the subtle art of the encore, lacing the second halves of his concerts with lighter, intimate repertoire. This recital was recorded in 1988 and was therefore recorded when Vardi was around seventy-three — the technique remains solid and fluent and his instinct for phrasing as magical as ever. All these pieces are heard in his transcriptions except obviously for his own Suite and Tibor Serley's Rhapsody, which were both written for the viola.
The Chopin Nocturne is delicately wafted and raptly phrased. Après en rêve is a classic case of subtle vibrato usage and changes of colour; every note is kept alive and vibrant, without Vardi ever transgressing by playing too loud — something his very eminent predecessor Lionel Teris habitually did with this piece. Vardi brings out the vocality of it, its intensity, whilst also offering it independence as an instrumental reflection. Beautiful. His Debussy is polished — note the lovely quick portamento — and refined in higher positions.
He essays the Siete Canciones Populares Españolas of de Falla and does so with an exemplary sense of characterisation and evocative rhythmic charge. Nana's languorous song is finely calibrated whilest Polo evinces vitality and drive. His own arrangement of Guitarre, the Moszkowski standby, is warmly vibrated and the dapperly dispatched passagework is matched by the sureness of the contrastive lyric section. The Kreutzer Etude, with piano accompaniment, is no dry study; Vardi shows how packed full of incident and life it can be when played like this. There are two larger works here as well, as noted above. Vardi's suite, based on American Folk Tunes is cast in five movements. There's a lovely Song — vaguely reminiscent of Shenandoah — and a vibrant, alternating slow and languorous, Ad lib and Slow Walk movement. The Middle Fiddler in ¾ time ends things with a flourish.
Serly's Rhapsody is ripely Hungarian, imbuing things a little with Serly's Bartókian affiliations along the way. It's essentially folkloric and unaffected, with a charming rather light dance as the central movement. The finale gets a bit 'barbaric' and its gypsy heels are kicked from time to time — very pleasant if smilingly derivative.
The recital also includes the Chaconne from the D minor Partita. This was a piece that Lionel Tertis recorded on 78s, ever after — when taste changed — regretting his lavish employment of portamentos. Vardi's playing is adroit and strongly directional, a lean not over-emotive approach, which is also quite quick.
I'd never come across these performances before. I'm not sure if they are new to the discographies or may derive from, say, Musical Heritage sessions. In any case their appearance here is a spendid thing — nicely annotated and in excellent sound as well.Jonathan Woolf