Monday, August 18, 2014

Tai Murrai plays Bruch and Berg

Not one but two concertos performed by the American violinist Tai Murray. 

What can I say? I still remember discovering the Bruch first concerto at the age of twelve, and being in love with it for months. And, like many works of my teenage years, I think I listened to it to the point where I couldn't hear it any more. Aside from Kreisler's lovely recording, I don't remember actually listening to it by choice for many years.

All that changed when I heard it anew under the hands of Tai Murray. What is it about a player that grabs your attention and will not let go? I don't know, but I know when I hear it! It's not just the beauty of the sound she makes. It has something to do with a vocal quality to her playing. What I always loved about Kreisler was that each note seemed to have a consonant as well as a vowel, if you know what I mean : that the attack and release of each note was as unerring as the actual tone quality. Notes didn't just make phrases, they made sentences. Well, I sense that quality too in this playing. And she gets extra points for not trying to make the Bruch into something it isn't. You can lean too heavily on this score and make it sound trite, like a second-rate film score. She plays it for what it is. 

The Berg, too, benefits from that lack of hysteria and ability to maintain a focus on the overall plan of the music beyond the moment-by-moment gestures. Indeed, listening to the concertos side-by-side, I am amused by the thought of the Berg as potential first-rate music dragged down by overstatement and portentiousness, while the Bruch is second-rate music exalted by honesty.

But the important thing is to listen to this young violinist, and then go and buy her recordings – she has two now: a brilliant recording of the Ysaÿe solo sonatas, and a recording of American pieces that I have yet to hear. 

Bruch : Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26
Howard Shelley, Ulster Orchestra, Tai Murray
Berg : Violin Concerto
Tai Murray, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Kristjan Järvi

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