French Impressions

French Impressions

Rachel Kolly d'Alba, Orchestre Symphonique de Bienne, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire, John Axelrod

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Album review

“Warner Classics' album French Impressions, with Swiss violinist Rachel Kolly d'Alba, is not, as you might initially expect, a survey of French violin works from the so-called Impressionists. Rather, it is an intriguing look at the many different directions French art music was taking in the early part of the 20th century. From the Third Violin Concerto of Saint-Saëns -- a longtime holdout of the Romantic style, although he accepted and encouraged the advancements of his compatriots -- to the exotic, virtuosic, and flashy Tzigane of Ravel, this program has more to offer listeners than just a grouping of Impressionist works. Likewise, d'Alba offers her listeners a breadth of colors and moods that match nicely with the changing characteristics of the scores. The Saint-Saëns concerto is played with invigorating force and drive, yielding a spontaneous, off-the-cuff feeling. Both the Ysaÿe works as well as the Chausson Poème are played with beautifully shaped, long, flowing lines and sensitive, careful application of dynamics. And finally Tzigane, in which d'Alba gets to show off her ample technique, punctuated articulation, and nimble bow arm. D'Alba produces a voluminous sound on her Vuilaume violin, so much so that her sound is almost too big and too present for the somewhat low recorded level of the accompanying orchestra.”

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