By Greg Cahill | From the July-August 2023 issue of Strings Magazine
Talk about a ringing endorsement: the celebrated Israeli-American violinist, violist, educator, and conductor Pinchas Zukerman has described 20-year-old violinist Luka Faulisi as having a “million-dollar sound.” You can take that statement to the bank.
Faulisi’s impressive debut, Aria, features movements from obscure and popular romantic operas. It was recorded with world-class pianist Itamar Golan, a longtime collaborator of Maxim Vengerov’s. That million-dollar sound is on full display as this French-Serbian-Italian violinist brings flash to a lively, playful reading of the Carmen Fantasie: Prélude. Who says classical music can’t be fun?
In addition to Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy (as made famous by Jascha Heifetz), Faulisi plays Henryk Wieniawski’s Fantasia on Themes from Gounod’s ‘Faust’ and “Roxana’s Song,” from King Roger, a 1924 opera by Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (arranged by Paul Kochanski). Also included are Efrem Zimbalist’s fantasy on melodies from Rimsky-Korsakov’s fairytale opera Le Coq D’or; Leopold Auer’s arrangement of “Lensky’s Aria,” from Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugene Onegin; and Faulisi’s own version of Violetta’s magnificent aria “Sempre libera,” from Verdi’s La Traviata.
The tender emotion of the introduction to Gonoud’s Faust alone is worth the price of admission. In the hands of this bold young violinist, these pieces sing with renewed spirit. His lyrical phrasing, technical skills, and command of Eastern European violin styles especially suggest a musician performing far beyond his years. He is, in fact, still a student of professor Pavel Berman at the Accademia Lorenzo Perosi in Biella, Italy. Aria is one of the strongest debuts I’ve heard in a decade. Faulisi sounds, well, like a million bucks.