Album Review: Violin Adagios

Violin Adagios, by various artists

From time to time I enjoy a break from my usual listening material while driving, and since I knew I did not have time to finish an audiobook before leaving on an extended trip to a religious festival (to attend the Feast of Tabernacles in Suriname), I thought I would investigate the music collection of my local library [1] to find some pleasant music to make my ride more enjoyable.  As a violist, I found this collection to be quite excellent, two volumes of well-played violin adagios by very talented musicians with good taste in composers.  Admittedly, some of the collections on this two-disc cd are a bit samey, as many adagios follow a somewhat familiar progression of notes in the melody.  However, if you want to listen to two and a half hours of peaceful and pleasant music on the violin, this is certainly a worthy choice, and it made for quite an enjoyable listening experience for me.  To be sure, I probably would have preferred an album of viola solos, but loyalty to my own chosen instrument aside, this is certainly an album that will make one’s commute a bit less stressful and that is always to be appreciated.

The adagios in this collection range from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries at least and are played by a talented group of violinists that include Joshua Bell, Kyung Wha Chugn, Arthur Grumiaux, Nigel Kennedy, Leila Josefowicz, Midori, Itzhak Perlman, Akiko Suwanai, Henryk Szeryng, and Pinchas Zuckerman.  The first disc includes works by Massenet, Bruch, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Brahms, Barber, Gluck, Beethoven, Tcaikovsky, Dvorak, and Shostakovich.  The second album includes works by Beethoven, Bach, Elgar, Schubert, Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, Kriesler, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Korngold, and Ponce.  Overall there are 29 tracts included and they range from very familiar works (like the Ave Maria) to more obscure ones (like the Salut d’amour), although it can fairly be said that the songs chosen as a whole remain well within the classical repertoire.  These are all songs that one could easily hear on the local classical music station without any trouble, and Decca Music as a label surely had little problems finding a suitable market for this compilation of material given the popularity of these artists and composers and the general familiarity with this music among the general public as a whole.

As a music listener, I must admit that I prefer long works that have conceptual unity to compilations, and I prefer compilations by the same group to compilations of various groups that happen to perform in the same genre.  Nevertheless, this album is certainly enjoyable.  I do not necessarily think that any of the performances on this would be the definitive performances of any of the pieces.  Many of them were played without the sort of emotional resonance that one would expect from the best of the material, but all of it was played well enough to make for suitable and pleasant background music.  In listening to an album like this, one has to get an understanding of what it sets out to be, and in this case the label and the album producers were going for “Pure Moods for the classical set.”  They succeeded at their efforts.  Whether or not this is an ambitious enough goal to celebrate, in creating pleasant if occasionally repetitive background music for educated and cultured audiences, to celebrate is not my place to judge.  Suffice it to say, though, that I got out of this album what I expected of it, and that is worth at least some praise.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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