This album offers a selection of popular violin miniatures from the period of Romanticism. Listening to these pieces it is easy to comprehend why we all get enchanted by virtuosity and that beautiful melodies always capture the human heart, young and old alike. The recording also features music that has been composed by the performer to demonstrate his own remarkable capacities while the album also has pieces that sound more like honest confessions overshadowed by grandiose compositions. The works are performed by Kristóf Baráti on his Stradivarius Lady Harmsworth and he is accompanied by pianist Gábor Farkas. 
Release date: January 8, 2016

What a good title for this selection of famous 19th-century encores. The ‘Lady Harmsworth’ in question is a 1703 masterpiece by Antonio Stradivari, though for Hungaroton to imply that it belongs to Kristóf Baráti is misleading: he has it on loan from the Stradivarius Society of Chicago. It is as beautiful an instrument to look at as it is to hear, producing in the words of one connoisseur ‘a cheerful, forthcoming tone as rich as its varnish colour suggests’.

And for those who like to hear the violin played at its sweet and acrobatic best, then Baráti is out of the top drawer. Born in Budapest in 1979, he puts one in mind of Vengerov, with the same intensity of sound, unbridled athleticism and, when needed, searing leaps into the stratosphere that send a tingle down the spine. Pianist Gábor Farkas, too, is no wallflower – listen to the precision and crisp rhythm he provides in the three Sarasate pieces – and, beneficially, he has been given equal billing in the sound picture. The four violinist-composers on the disc, not to mention Tchaikovsky, wrote keyboard parts that are meant to be heard. Too often they are relegated to the background or separated from the violin. Listen to Ruggiero Ricci in some of the same repertoire from the 1950s (Decca), fizzing with exuberance and technical wizardry but with poor Louis Persinger and Ernest Lush reduced to mere ciphers. Baráti and Farkas operate side by side and to far greater effect, even when the tempi of pieces such as Zapateado and Moto perpetuo are slightly more measured than Ricci’s.

With a rare chance to hear Ernst’s take for solo violin on Schubert’s ‘Der Erlkönig’ and all three movements (for once) of the Tchaikovsky suite, this disc comes very warmly recommended.

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