For the Record, Op. 27: Isabelle Faust's Mendelssohn; Alina Ibragimova's Mozart; Steven Isserlis; Matt Haimovitz

August 31, 2017, 7:32 AM · Welcome to "For the Record,"'s weekly roundup of new releases of recordings by violinists, violists, cellists and other classical musicians. We hope it helps you keep track of your favorite artists, as well as find some new ones to add to your listening!

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Symphony No.5, Hebrides Overture
Isabelle Faust, violin
Freiburger Barockorchester; Pablo Heras-Casado, conducting

Violinist Isabelle Faust set about finding the original intentions of the composer in this new recording of Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, going back to the writings of the early violinists who played it, including dedicatee Ferdinand David as well as Joseph Joachim, who played the piece at age 14 under Mendelssohn's baton. Below: excerpts from her performance as well as thoughts from Isabelle Faust:

Mozart: Violin Sonatas Vol. 4
Alina Ibragimova, violin
Cédric Tiberghien, piano

This is the fourth in a series of recordings of Mozart Violin Sonatas series by violinist Alina Ibragimova and pianist Cédric Tiberghien. This volume includes eight sonatas and a set of variations, works written by Mozart between ages 7 and 26, among them an unfinished present composed for his new wife Constanze. Below: excerpts from K303, 377, 378 & 403:

Haydn & C.P.E. Bach: Cello Concertos
Steven Isserlis, cello
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen

This recording features Haydn's two cello concertos; C.P.E Bach's Cello Concerto in A major; Mozart's Geme la tortorella from La finta giardiniera and the Adagio from Boccherini's Cello Concerto in G major G480. Below, an excerpt from the first movement of Haydn's famous Cello Concerto in C major, among other excerpts:

Glass: Partitas for Solo Cello
Matt Haimovitz, cello

Matt Haimovitz performs the world premiere of new cello music of Philip Glass, his Partita No.2 for Solo Cello. The recording also includes Glass's Partita No. 1 for Solo Cello "Songs & Poems." Glass, in speaking about the creation of these Partitas for cello, has cited his intense study of Bach with his mentor Nadia Boulanger; and how that "re-wired" his brain. Below: excerpt from Partita No. 2 for Solo Cello, played by cellist Matt Haimovitz and the composer.

Unheard - Music from the Interwar period
Ebony Band

The Ebony Quartet consists of musicians from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. For many years they have formed the string nucleus of the Ebony Band, while also performing regularly as a quartet. They have devoted themselves to the rediscovery and rehabilitation of music from the Interwar period that was unknown, forgotten or considered lost.

If you have a new recording you would like us to consider for inclusion in our Thursday "For the Record" feature, please e-mail Editor Laurie Niles. Be sure to include the name of your album, a link to it and a short description of what it includes.


August 31, 2017 at 05:10 PM · I saw Isserlis with Steven Doane and Raphael Bell a few years ago in Charlottesville. Took the whole family. That was an outstanding recital. Unbelievable. Went to Monticello the following morning.

August 31, 2017 at 07:36 PM · Sorry Paul, I can't help myself. I saw Steven Isserlis play earlier this year (Debussy, Faure (my favorite composer) and Ades), and it was one of the worst concerts I've ever been to. Playing with a weak, thin and ugly tone throughout, the lack of any sort of phrasing just kind of melted all the music into a puddle of notes. I can still remember him playing some lyrical passage, his eyes looking up to the rafters, as if to God, apparently enraptured by some music he must have been hearing in his head. You'll have to forgive the intensity of my dislike for that performance.

A lot of the audience seemed to really enjoy it, though.

September 1, 2017 at 02:44 AM · That period Mendelssohn sounds really cool, maybe better than the romanticized version.

September 1, 2017 at 11:13 AM · Isabelle Faust tries to recreate how violinists like David and Joachim sounded. It is a valuable pursuit I suppose, and at any rate Isabelle Faust is quite successful in coming out with projects where she finds ways to distinguish her from the myriad of other excellent violinist on this planet. At the same time there is little going around the fact that these early violinists most probably did not, by far, sound as good as, say, Hilary Hahn or Julia Fischer, just to name two of Faust's "competitors". Actually Szigeti in his book on the violin devotes an entire chapter to the question "how did Joachim actually sound" where superficially he is lauding Joachim, but what he is really doing is trying to establish, based on some historic quotes by pianists etc (!) that Joachim probably sounded quite poor. Incidentally he mentions Joachim playing the opening theme of the Mendelssohn using a flajolet for each of the 3 E's as something almost unbelievable, something no self-respecting contemporary (in Szigeti's time) violinist would ever do in public. It is exactly what Faust is doing here in her new recording. At least she succeeded in her goal!

September 1, 2017 at 04:48 PM · I thought the opening bars in the video of Faust above sounded pretty horrid--that E should not be a harmonic. Maybe less vibrato, less intense, sure. But some things about modern violin playing are better (ie, they create a more beautiful sound), and not playing a harmonic there is one of them.

Yes, one can come back and say de gustibus non est disputandum, but to that I will take Socrates' approach, to start with the common understanding when delving into the truth: play Hillary Hahn next to this Faust recording above, blind, to a hundred people on the street and I have no doubt that Hahn gets an overwhelming majority of votes for being the better of the two. There is truth in that.

September 1, 2017 at 05:05 PM · Some strong opinions! Certainly soloists have their up days and down days when playing live; and beyond that, unless the performance is at the extreme of either good or bad. audience members will likely take home different perceptions.

When it comes to Mendelssohn, I still remember studying it with several different teachers; one asked for a harmonic on that opening E and the other did not. So it's not a new argument! There are arguments both technical and musical, for and against either way. Arguing for it: the harmonic ensures it's always in tune, and when it comes to taste, it has that completely pure tone, if you are looking for an late-Classical approach or kind of going for those open ringing tones. Against it: no vibrato, it's a richer note when played solid.

September 3, 2017 at 11:30 AM · Thanks Laurie, in fairness, even Heifetz has played the E harmonic, it is in the movie where he plays the concerto with a school orchestra, he wears a white jacket.

September 3, 2017 at 01:45 PM · Aside from questions of finger choices, I love sound of the solo violin sound as well that of this ensemble. I think this was a thoughtful and loving approach.

Steve Kelley

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