By Laurence Vittes | From the July-August 2023 issue of Strings Magazine
The flowering of the relationship between Jan Vogler and his magnificent Strad in these flowing and powerful performances affirms Lalo’s vision and makes a persuasive introduction to the world premiere recording of a concerto written in 1946 by Pablo Casals’ brother Enrique (1892–1986). Coincidentally, Pablo played the Lalo in 1899 when he started his international career, and this album celebrates Lalo’s 200th birthday.
The Lalo deserves more than the few recordings it has received lately, although Marc Coppey’s lyricism on his Audite recording last year has considerable charms of its own and is also enterprisingly coupled with Léon Boëllmann’s enchanting Symphonic Variations. By contrast, Vogler sweeps through the Lalo at occasionally breathless speeds that are entirely, heroically appropriate. “I thought it could take a faster tempo,” Vogler tells me, and indeed, only Janos Starker’s Mercury recording from 1962 beats his seven minutes for the last movement. Vogler and the excellent orchestra and conductor are so on top of everything, however, that it never sounds rushed. As Vogler notes, “It’s important to have a certain swing to it.”
Like the violin concertos by Korngold and Ludomir Różycki written the year before in 1945, Enrique Casals’ concerto is a big, colorful, gorgeous, unashamedly virtuosic piece. Not surprisingly, it has traces of Dvořák, Lalo, and Donald Francis Tovey, who wrote a vastly long, vastly underrated concerto for Pablo. “Tovey, so true!” says Vogler.
When I mention how vibrant his 1707 “ex-Castelbarco, Fau” Stradivari sounded, Vogler explains, “When I got my Guarneri, it took me three years to learn how to play it. With the Montagnana, it took me about four years. The Strad took me ten. Now I feel completely at home, and I’m really, really happy. And the Tourte bow had a very nice sound in the Lukaskirche where so many great recordings were made by Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, and Rudolf Kempe.”