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Impressions - Zakhar Bron Chamber

Impressions - Zakhar Bron Chamber

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 133

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Orchestral


Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957): Impromptu für Streichorchester op.5, No. 5
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 - 1921): Rondo Capriccioso, op. 28
Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957): Romanze in C, op. 42
Franz WAXMAN (1906 - 1967): Carmen Fantasie, op. 25
Henyrik WIENIAWSKI (1906 - 1967): 2me Mazurka "Kuyawiak" a-moll
Fritz KREISLER (1875 - 1962): Syncopation; La Gitana; Serenade Espagnole
Samuel BARBER (1910 - 1981): Adagio for strings, op. 11
Fabian PANISELLO (* 1963): "The Song" from the 3 mov's for String Quartet Version for String Orchestra
Niccolò Paganini (1782 - 1840): Moto Perpetuo, op. 11

ZAKHAR BRON, ARATA YUMI, Mone Hattori, ZAKHAR BRON Chamber

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Review by John Miller - March 10, 2013

String players will know the name of Zakhar Bron. He is regarded as one of the great teachers of violin, numbering Repin, Vengerov and Gluzman as just a few pupils from a starry list of brilliant violinists. For some years, Bron has been putting together a string orchestra of young talent from some of his most promising students in class and others garnered from previous classes in colleges such as Cologne, Madrid and Zürich. The somewhat oddly named "Zakhar Bron Chamber" performs in many cities in its tours, and this is its début on record. It just lacks an "orchestra" or "ensemble" in the name.

'Impressions' is a showcase for this youthful group, up to 30 in number. A long five-panel fold-out photograph shows the lined-up 19 players (some remarkably young!) selected for the 2012 session, plus the beaming Maestro. String players will know the name of Zakhar Bron. He is regarded as one of the great teachers of violin, numbering Repin, Vengerov and Gluzman as pupils in a starry list of brilliant concert players. For some years, Bron has been putting together a string orchestra of young talent from some of his most promising students in class, and others garnered from previous classes in colleges such as Cologne, Madrid and Zürich.

The programme of string orchestra favorites and other more unusual items, has been devised to show that the orchestral players are also all soloists, and some of perform here in that rôle. Bron also plays a few tasteful morsels, so as not to upstage any of his protégés (not, on the evidence provided, an easy thing to do).

The two lovely Sibelius pieces for strings, Impromptu Op. 5 no 5 (1894) and Romance in C (1904) demonstrate the rich tone and tight ensemble of the Bron Chamber. The tranquil, timeless landscape of the Impromptu plays host in its middle section to a vernal dance which emulates the style of Sibelius's tuneful King Christian Suite, while the Romance has a sumptuous ardent glow, boosted by the transparency of the string parts with their counter-melodies.

Saint-Saëns's war horse for violinists, the Rondo Capriccioso Op. 8, is the first concertante piece. Arata Yumi (b. 1992) steps forward into the limelight. His performance is a delight, catching the elegance and spirit of this "pink-icing" piece. Intonation is impeccable and rhythmically energised. Some little touches, especially at cadences, show that Yumi can personalise the music charmingly. He is followed by Mone Hattori, a tiny girl of 13 years at the time of recording. She takes full command of the Waxman Carmen Fantasy for violin and orchestra of 1946, another testing ground for violinists. Part of Waxman's score for the film 'Humoresque', it was written for Heifitz, but its first performance was usurped by Isaac Stern. Miss Hattori attended Suzuki's violin classes from the age of 6, before being taught by Zakhar Bron. Her performance is at once seductive and red-blooded, fully controlled and with no signs of such an early age. Her dazzling high notes at the end caused the word "sensational" to enter my mind; she has no fear of Waxman's fireworks display.

In the middle of the programme, Professor Bron takes over the solos, with some short but colourful and attractive pieces, so as not to upstage his protégés. Before taking up pedagogy, his life was as an international concert violinist, and his chosen pieces might well have been used as encores. Wieniawski's "Kuwayiak" mazurka tune was also used by Chopin, its A minor tonality lending a touch of melancholy to the Polish dance. Kreisler's three pieces, arranged by Marco Crispo for string orchestra and solo, are a delight. One can hear in those pure, stable and perfectly tuned final high notes of Serenade Espagnole the origin of a similar technique displayed by pupils Yumi and Hattori in their previous solos.

The remaining three items dig somewhat deeper into the string orchestra's talents. That ubiquitous Barber Adagio is deeply felt and passionately wrought, although it doesn't enter quite so stealthily as Litton does with the Bergen strings elsewhere (Barber: Cello Music - Poltéra / Litton / Stott).

Argentinian-born Fabian Panisello takes the Bron Chamber out of its cushy Romanticism with his more challenging "The Song" from 3 movements for String Quartet (string orchestra version). Taking a sweet, simple Japanese folk song about the sea shore, he performs modern diversions and developments on it, wringing dissonances and geometric architectural structures from the song, before replaying it as pristine. The Bron Chamber certainly have to play as soloists in an ensemble here, and I suspect that they would give the Ostrobothian Chamber Orchestra a run for their money in this piece!

Winding up, Paganini (erstwhile Devil of Music) supplies his Moto Perpetuo op. 11 to show off the violins themselves, which rush around unceasingly at breakneck speed with perfect articulation while the rest of the strings provide some rhythm and harmony - temporarily acting as basso continuo at the service of the violins.

Ars Produktion provide their usual very high quality recording from the Radiostudio Zürich, very vivid and with good bloom, but at high volume levels I think the studio acoustic slightly over-brightened the top when all the violins played in tutti. Turning the volume down somewhat seems mostly to cure this small blemish. The 5.1 track is very realistic, with solid but not over-emphasised bass. The booklet is slightly unusual in having a lengthy section for each composer which is essentially a biography,, leaving a sentence or so to mention the piece itself. Perhaps it is aimed at new listeners, but tyros will wish to have more detail about the music. Added to the already bulky booklet is the aforementioned concertinaed colour photograph (extending to 595mm in length) which one has to struggle with to replace in the standard SA-CD jewel case without tearing or crimping. I suspect that most will discard the addition after a glance, attractive and innovative as it is.

'Impressions' is the title or subtitle of many, many recordings. So what is my impression of this one? Inspiring - as it promises another generation or more of wonderful string players, entertaining - in its well-planned and faceted programme, impeccably performed. Given a fine recording, this is a brilliant showcase debut for Professor Zakar Bron and his youthful pupils. Its appearance on SA-CD has clearly benefited this debut.


The two lovely Sibelius pieces for strings, Impromptu Op. 5 no 5 (1894) and Romance in C (1904) demonstrate the rich tone and tight ensemble of the Bron Chamber. The tranquil, timeless landscape of the Impromptu plays host in its middle section to a vernal dance which emulates the style of Sibelius's tuneful King Christian Suite, while the Romance has a sumptuous ardent glow, boosted by the transparency of the string parts with their counter-melodies.

Saint-Saëns's war horse for violinists, the Rondo Capriccioso Op. 8, is the first concertante piece. Arata Yumi (b. 1992) steps forward into the limelight. His performance is a delight, catching the elegance and spirit of this pink-icing piece. Intonation is impeccable, with gleaming top notes and rhythmically energised. He is followed by Mone Hattori, a tiny girl of 13 years at the time of recording. She takes full command of the Waxman Carmen Fantasy for violin and orchestra of 1946, another testing ground for violinists. Part of his score for the film 'Humoresque', it was written for Heifitz, but its first performance was usurped by Isaac Stern. Miss Hattori attended Suzuki's violin classes from the age of 6, before being taught by Zakhar Bron. Her performance is at once seductive and red-blooded, fully controlled and with no signs of such an early age. Her dazzling high notes at the end caused the word "sensational" to enter my mind; she has no fear of Waxman's fireworks display.

In the middle of the programme, Professor Bron takes over the solos, with some short but colourful and attractive pieces, so as not to upstage his protégés. Before taking up pedagogy his life was as ain international concert violinists, and such pieces might well have been used as encores. Wieniawski's "Kuwayiak" mazurka tune was also used by Chopin, its A minor tonality lending a touch of melancholy to the dance. Kreisler's three pieces, arranged by Marco Crispo for string orchestra and solo, are a delight, and one can hear the source of those pure, stable and in tune upper final notes of Serenade Espagnole as played by pupils Yumi and Hattori earlier in the programme.

The remaining three items dig somewhat deeper into the string orchestra's talents. The ubiquitous Barber Adagio is deeply felt and passionately wrought, although it doesn't enter so stealthily as Litton does with the Bergen strings (Barber: Cello Music - Poltéra / Litton / Stott). Argentinian-born Fabian Panisello takes the Bron Chamber out of its cushy Romanticism with his more challenging "The Song" from 3 movements for String Quartet (string orchestra version). Taking a sweet, simple Japanese folk song about the sea shore, he performs modern diversions and developments on it, wringing dissonances and architectural structures from the song, before replaying it as pristine. The Bron Chamber certainly have to play as soloists in an ensemble here, and I suspect that they would give the Ostrobothian Chamber Orchestra a run for their money in this piece!

Winding up, Paganini (erstwhile Devil of Music) suppies his Moto Perpetuo op. 11 to show off the violins, which rush around unceasingly at breakneck speed with perfect articulation while the rest of the strings provide some rhythm and harmony - temporarily acting as basso continuo for the violins.

Ars Produktion provide their usual very high quality recording from the Radiostudio Zürich, very vivid and with good bloom, but at high volume levels I think the studio acoustic slightly over-brightened the top when all the violins played in tutti. Turning the volume down somewhat seems mostly to cure this small blemish. The 5.1 track is very realistic, with solid but not over-emphasised bass. The booklet is slightly unusual in having a lengthy section for each composer which is essentially a biography,, leaving a sentence or so to mention the piece itself. Perhaps it is aimed at new listeners, but tyros will wish to have more detail about the music. Added to the already bulky booklet is the aforementioned concertinered colour photograph (measuring 595mm) which one has to struggle to replace in the standard SA-CD jewel case without tearing or crimping. I suspect that most will discard that after a glance, attractive and innovative as it is
.
"Impressions" is the title or subtitle of many, many other recordings. So what do I think of this one? Inspiring - as it promises another generation or more of wonderful string players, entertaining - in its well-planned and faceted programme, impeccably performed. Given a fine recording into the bargain, this is a brilliant showcase debut for Professor Zakar Bron and his youthful pupils. Snap it up.

Copyright © 2013 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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Sonics (Multichannel):

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