Fanfare Review-Live in Belgrade:Live collection of Volodja Balzalorsky
CD Review by Robert Maxham
SZYMANOWSKI Violin Sonata. FRANCK Violin Sonata. SKERJANC Liricna bagatela ‚ Volodja Balzalorsky (vn); Hinko Haas (pn) ‚CANTABEL 002 (52:39) Live: Belgrade 4/1998
Volodja Balzalorsky Live in Concert Vol. 2: Sonatas for Violin and Piano by Franck & Szymanowski (Live in Belgrade)
The second volume of Volodja Balzalorsky’s Live Collection presents a recital he gave in April 1998, with pianist Hinko Haas in Kolarac Hall in Belgrade. The program opened with Karol Szymanowski‚s ripely romantic Violin Sonata, a piece first performed by Paul Kochanski and Anton Rubinstein in 1909 (by way of reference, the two violin concertos come from 1916 and 1933 and the relatively popular Mythes and Notturno e Tarantella, from 1916).
But however early in his production, Szymanowski’s sonata seems especially well suited to a violinist who understands the somewhat elusive though ecstatic harmonic language that underpins some of the work’s most traditional-sounding passagework (remember the way in which Szymanowski underlayered Paganini’s Caprices Nos. 20, 21, and 24 with his own rich harmonic substratum).
Balzalorsky and Haas seem particularly unconstricted breathing this somewhat heavy and slightly exotic atmosphere, notably, perhaps, in the second movement. They begin the third with an energy similar to that which they generated at the opening of the first, an energy that Balzalorsky maintains at times by means of a tone just raw enough to create an occasional frisson at climactic moments.
And they bring the movement to a blazing conclusion.
In Franck’s Sonata, one of the repertoire’s staples (Heifetz chose it for his last recital), they invite comparison with the great performances through the history of recording.
But Balzalorsky’s ability to turn and twist his tone, and the performers’s joint sympathy for Franck’s expressive harmonic language (think of the haunting ninth chords at the opening of the piano part) and surging passages give them a strong foothold in the first movement.
They slightly hold back climaxes, making them just bearable, and exhibit a wide dynamic range in exploring the movement’s subtleties. In the engineers’s recorded sound, Balzalorsky’s entrance in the second movement seems almost cavernous, but they‚Äôve by no means diminished the urgency of his reading. Compared to Isaac Stern’s raw energy, Balzalorsky’s seems super-subtleized in this sonata (Franck wrote it as a wedding present for Eugène-Auguste Ysaÿe, who could strike sparks in the last movement of Mendelssohn’s Concerto but who, as a composer, could also lead violinists through rhapsodic serpentine chromaticism in his own solo violin sonatas).
Balzalorsky and Haas know how to fall back before springing (as they do at the movement’s end), and the effect can be overwhelming. The duo opens the canonic last movement at a somewhat slow tempo, but Balzalorsky plays with a subtly varied tone that continuously enlivens the musical interest until their shattering final pages. After the intensity of their reading of Franck’s finale, Lucjan Marija Skerjanc’s two-minute Liricna bagatela comes as sweetmeat. (According to the jewel case, Skerjanc lived between 1900 and 1973.)
If Balzalorsky’s tone doesn’t always sound lush, that may be partly due to the engineering, but he also may not seek tonal opulence, as do many, as an end in itself. For the inherent interest of the program and for the performances themselves, the release deserves a high recommendation.
This article originally appeared in Issue 33:6 (July/Aug 2010) of Fanfare Magazine.
About the Duo
Volodja Balzalorsky and Hinko Haas, both prominent Slovenian artists from Ljubljana, have made their name by highly acclaimed concerts in many countries, as soloists and as members of various chamber ensembles.
As a Duo they appeared for the first time in 1979, at the Ohrid Summer Festival and have been giving regular joint performances since 1986.
They have successfully performed in Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, France, Germany, Norway, and Luxembourg in various International concert series and Festivals such as:
Ljubljana Summer Festival; Violin virtuosos – Belgrade; Ohrid Summer Festival; Concerts in Cankarjev dom – Ljubljana; Festival of contemporary music Radenci; Festival The Scene of Pristina; Concerts in HGZ- Zagreb; The Slovenian music days – Ljubljana; The European month of culture Ljubljana, Festival Nei Suoni dei Luoghi in Italy, The Spectrum Festival (various venues in Slovenia), Festival of Slovenian Culture in Cahors in France, Nordland Music Festival , Norway, Festival of Nations Rome, Italy, etc.
Duo Balzalorsky-Haas has recorded for the principal radio stations [Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Skopje, Maribor and Koper], for TV Slovenija, for LP and CD, embracing a wide repertory of music from the classical era to the contemporary.
Some of renowned Slovenian composers have written music specifically for them to perform.
Volodja Balzalorsky from Ljubljana, Slovenia, performs internationally as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician.
Numerous highly praised concerts, broadcasts, CD, and TV recordings in various countries have established his reputation as an artist with a sensitive, intelligent, and intuitive gift of interpretation, a polished technique, and a rich, full tone.
Volodja is particularly active in the field of chamber music. He works with many international groups and ensembles. He has built long-term partnerships with several musicians, including pianists Christoph Theiler, Hinko Haas, Aleksandar Serdar, and Peter Caelen, percussionist Amy Lynne Barber, and his fellow members of the Amael Trio, pianist Tatjana Ognjanovic, later pianist Zoltan Peter and cellist Damir Hamidullin.
For his artistic achievements, he was awarded several international music awards:
He is Two Time Winner and Four-Time Nominee of Independent Music Awards.
Volodja is also the recipient of several further international music awards such as The Hollywood Music in Media Award, The Inland Empire Music Award, The Ontario Independent Music Award, The Canary Island Music Award, and Julij Betetto Music Award.
Volodja Balzalorsky is an internationally acclaimed concert violinist who has performed in many music festivals and concert series throughout Europe, and North America.
He is recipient of several International Music Awards: Holywood Music in Media Award 2009 – Best Classical, The Inland Empire Music Award 2008 – Best International Artist, The Ontario
Independent Music Award 2007 – Best International Artist, The Canary Island Music Award 2007- Best Interpretation, and Julij Betetto Music Award 2006. He is also The Los Angeles Music Award 2007 and 2008 Nominee , The Hollywood Music Award 2008 Nominee and The Just Plain Folks Music Award 2006 Nominee – Best chamber music album.
Critics have described him as an artist with a sensitive, intelligent and intuitive gift of interpretation, a polished technique, and a rich, full tone.
Volodja Balzalorsky is particularly active in the field of chamber music. He performs with several well-known international groups and ensembles. Critics comment on the degree to which he is able to develop and maintain unity with his musical partners in this milieu, presenting “… an exceptional harmony of ease and authenticity of performance.
Volodja Balzalorsky has made extensive live and archival radio and TV recordings in various countries. In 2005, four CDs were released as part of his “LIVE” Collection, with 5 more planned for release on the CANTABEL label, with added releases by EROICA, a well known US Label that features great classical artists worldwide.
Volodja Balzalorsky considers teaching an important and complementary part of his artistic career (Violin class at the Music Academy of University of Ljubljana), and regularly gives master classes in Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States.
After graduating from the class of professor Igor Ozim at the »Hochschule für Musik« in Cologne, Germany, he continued his studies in Moscow with Galina Barinova at the Conservatorium P.I.Tchaikovsky, with Josip Klima at the Music Academy in Zagreb, where he received his Master’s Degree, and with the eminent Czech violinist Josef Suk at the “Universität für Musik” in Vienna.
HINKO HAAS (1956-2020)
Hinko Haas was one of the leading Slovene pianists.
Hinko Haas, one of the most prominent representatives of Slovenian pianists, studied the piano at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana with Dubravka Tomsic – Srebotnjak and finished his postgraduate studies in her class. He continued his studies with R. Kehrer in Weimar, C. Copens in Brussels and with C. Engel in Bern where he won a scholarship granted by the Swiss government.
He received several Music Awards, among others Julij Betetto Music Award . He is also The Just Plain Folks Music Award 2006 Nominee – Best chamber music album.
He received also the Preseren award of the Academy of Music and the Preseren award of the University of Ljubljana.
He has collaborated with several soloists and ensembles (Violin-Piano Duo with Volodja Balzalorsky, Les percussions de Strasbourg, Taipei Chamber Orchestra, Igor Ozim, Wolfgang Panhofer, Ana Pusar Jeric, piano duo with Aci Bertoncelj, Ljubljana Piano Trio, Trio Syringa, trio Pro Musica Nova…).
He gave concerts in Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Germany, Swizerland, Belgium, Russia, Taiwan, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and performed with Slovene and foreign orchestras and conductors. He has been a guest of Ljubljana International Summer festival, Ohrid Summer festival and World Music Days 2003.
Since 1992 he was Professor of piano at the Academy of Music of University of Ljubljana.