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BBC Music Magazine - Jan 2017

Bruch spent most of his long career in the shadow of his First Violin Concerto's supreme popularity. As a result, a great deal of highly attractive music fell by the wayside. It wasn't until Itzhak Perlman recorded the Second Concerto (twice) for EMI in the 1970's/80's, and Salvatore Accardi all of Bruch's violin concertante works for Philips around the same time, that most of us realised what we had been missing.

Jack Liebeck, who has already recorded Bruch's First and Third Violin Concertos for Hyperion, might be said to combine Perlman's musical intensity with Accardo's Italianate tonal purity and litheness. Throughout the Second Concerto, with its unforgettable soaring opening, Liebeck combines a beguiling silvery sound with tantalising interpretative restraint, free of heart-on-the-sleeve rhetoric. Some might prefer a more overtly indulgent cantabile soulfulness, although rarely has Bruch's melodic genius been sounded with such chaste sweetness as here, ideally complimented by Liebeck's captivating narrow-fast vibrato.

Yet it is in the one-movement items that he really comes into his own, weaving compelling emotional narratives out of material that is not always necessarily of the highest distinction. Backed to the hilt by Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, captured in naturally glowing yet detailed sound, he somehow makes the Konzertstück sound like a masterpiece in full bloom.

The Telegraph - Feb 2016

It is amazing the unsung or forgotten composers the record label Hyperion has managed to come up with for its Romantic Violin Concerto series. Long-forgotten masters such as Frederic Cliffe and Baron Frédéric d'Erlanger, Joseph Jongen and Sylvio Lazzari, Emil Mlynarski and Aleksander Zarzycki have shown that the art of composing for the violin did not rest entirely with those more celebrated figures who have stood the test of time.

Composers who are now relegated to the periphery of the repertoire give invaluable insight into the general artistic milieu of their day, and establish a helpful cultural context in which to view and listen to the works of the acknowledged greats. However, the Mendelssohns and Elgars of this world have also found their rightful place in the Hyperion series, and now we are back once more on familiar territory with Volume 19, coupling the G minor Violin Concerto No 1 completed by Max Bruch in 1867 together with his Romance Op 42 of 1874 and the Serenade Op 75 of 1899.

Jack Liebeck's Hyperion recording of Bruch's rarely heard Third Concerto, coupled with the popular Scottish Fantasy (CDA68050), was released in 2014 and was greeted with the high praise that this new disc merits.

His tone is richly hued but at the same time supple and capable of finely shaded nuances of timbre. The passion of the playing derives naturally from the fierce intensity that inhabits the themes of the first movement; but then, in the second, Liebeck can summon up the tenderest emotional reveries before harnessing the powerful energy and rhythmic bite that lend the finale such exciting momentum.

Ably supported by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins, this is a performance of a wellknown concerto that takes nothing for granted.

Instead, in the most sensitive fashion, it allows the music to breathe and blossom, capturing afresh the lyricism and romantic glow that have made it one of the bestloved violin concertos in the entire repertoire.

Bruch never quite succeeded in building on the success he achieved with the First Concerto, but that is not to say that the A minor Romance—originally intended as a concerto first movement—is in any way short of characteristic Bruchian melody and atmosphere. The Serenade is a substantial piece, longer in fact than the concerto, and again establishes its delightful mix of charm and bucolic spirit through Liebeck's remarkable artistry and imagination.

Geoffrey Norris

The Guardian 21/1/16

At the age of 30, Max Bruch wrote a violin concerto that would still be sitting at the top of radio listeners’ polls more than a century later; he spent the rest of his career trying to repeat the success, while kicking himself for selling the rights. Jack Liebeck pairs the familiar Concerto No 1 with two works for violin and orchestra that are similarly sumptuous, if less consistently inspired. The four-movement Serenade in A minor is patchy: a passage of sighing, soaring gloriousness emerges halfway through the second movement, only to be discarded for a relentlessly perky march, and the rhythmically repetitive finale would sound downright turgid under any conductor less dynamic than Martyn Brabbins. The 10-minute Romance in A minor is lovely, but easy to forget. Yet anyone who likes the familiar Bruch will enjoy this too, and Liebeck is a red-blooded, eloquent advocate throughout.

Erica Jeal

Strad Magazine JAN 2016

I am curious about the ordering of this disc (volume 19 on Hyperion's Romantic Violin Concerto series). The cover lists the works in chronological order yet the disc itself is the other way round. Accordingly, one wonders a little about the dramatic 'curve' of the contents—from the rhapsodic Serenade via the elegiac Romance to the more traditionally structured (and famous) Violin Concerto.

I must admit, though, that my objections are undermined by the superlatively good playing here. Jack Liebeck, a justly celebrated musician, offers gloriously clear-toned and intelligent renditions—revealed by an exquisitely balanced recording quality that admirably teases out the individual orchestral colours (as in the first movement of the concerto).

Liebeck's superb technique is evident throughout, enlivened by carefully modulated vibrato and appropriate—though at times slightly snatched—portamentos (as in the Serenade's first movement). There is a lean quality to the playing that only adds to its intensity.

The problem, then, is that the most structurally rigorous music is placed last, after a lot of beautiful but somewhat directionless composition that might leave the ear engorged with loveliness and less inclined to appreciate the higher artistic achievement in the playing itself. But I am doubtless splitting hairs, for this is one of the best-presented discs I have heard for a long time.

David Milsom

Gramophone January 2016

One couldn’t help wondering, when Jack Liebeck launched his exploration of Bruch’s violin works last year, why he began with the Third Concerto. It was an uphill struggle, with Liebeck attempting to convince us that this is more interesting music than it is. Still, it was a worthy project, for completeness’s sake, showcasing an approach as fresh as we have come to expect from this violinist.

It’s an approach that pays dividends in this latest recording, which unites Liebeck with Bruch’s evergreen Concerto No 1. No sign here of nanny-goat vibrato or the banana-skin slides that mar Daniel Hope’s otherwise well-judged recording. No, what Liebeck seems to be saying is that Bruch needs no additional sweeteners. His playing is unpretentious and strikingly introspective, resulting in an Adagio of quiet dignity. And even if the first movement doesn’t quite match the grandeur of Julia Fischer’s or the sweaty passion of Vadim Gluzman’s, it stands out for its poise and clarity.

The rest of the programme profiles lesser-known fodder. Lesser known for good reason, because neither the Romance in A minor nor the four-movement Serenade in A minor can compete with the First Concerto for nuance and emotional depth, let alone memorable tunes. Nonetheless, they draw urgent, vibrant playing from Liebeck, who embraces every opportunity for contrast. And it says much for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conductor Martyn Brabbins that they sound, throughout, as though genuinely enamoured of this music.

Hannah Nepil

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Classica Magazine - France - March 2015

The misfortune of Bruch, is to have composed a particularly successful first violin concerto, receiving to a universal renown, and which caused a terrible disservice to the two following. The third, in 1890, is a world away. Firstly in its dimensions, at more than 38 minutes, it moves closer to the Brahms concerto, but over-all by the content. Here, Bruch sees all in large scale, not without a certain solemnity but with still a lot of lyricism and, if we listen to the details, a well full of delicacy. Although little played, this Concerto has been recorded quite often, and there are several versions of great quality: Accardo/Masur (Philips), Hanslip/Brabbins (Warner), Ehnes/Dutoit (CBC Records), Mordkovitch/Hickox (Chandos).  Dedicated to Sarasate, as of Lalo's Symphonie espagnole, the Scottish Fantasy, ten years earlier, is much more well-known. It is an attractive free-form structure, but a composition as serious as the concertos, which has attracted more attempts from the great tenors of the violin (if I dare say), Heifetz, Oistrakh, Grumiaux and Perlman. As so often in these collections devoted by Hyperion to romantic concertos, the soloist is little known in France. Jack Liebeck, professor at the Royal Academy of Music, is an interpreter of a high quality, more anxious to bring to light the niceties of the writing of Bruch, in a very subtle dialog with the orchestra than to make effects with expression and brio. He sees that behind the forms and academia of the concerto and the traits of virtuosity expected, there is a nice dialog concealed between the soloist and the orchestra. Martyn Brabbins is very attentive to the quality of this dialog, and also knows, in the tuttis, to release the grip on an orchestra overcome with lyricism. 

Jacques Bonnaure

Fanfare Magazine Mar/Apr 2015

Max Bruch found the popularity of his First Violin Concerto (“the” Bruch Concerto) irksome, believing his later concerted works for violin to be just as good. Recordings of the Third Concerto, in particular, have been scarce, although Salvatore Accardo and Kurt Masur recorded the composer’s complete works in the genre, including a number that might have been—or grown into—Bruch’s fourth concerto. At first blush, the Third Concerto seems more traditional than either the First or the Second, but even in its first movement the lyrical theme doesn’t appear in the orchestral tutti, having been held in reserve until the violin has entered. But there’s more to tradition than a simple ordering of themes, and in its writing for the violin, the work presents the soloist in passagework that might have come from the pen of a diatonic Ludwig Spohr. Jack Liebeck (and Martyn Brabbins) not only storm the craggiest Brahms-like passages, but the soloist in particular gives a virtuosic account of the first movement’s thematic development and a heartfelt one of the theme that listeners might come, upon greater familiarity, to regard as perhaps Bruch’s most touching. Liebeck and Brabbins bring appealing simplicity and warmth to the second movement, more in their reading than a simple filler (Tully Potter’s notes explain that the composer in fact added the last two movements to what he had conceived as a free-standing concert allegro). In fact, at 10:49, it isn’t slight in any way. The themes of Bruch’s violin concerto finales display a sort of Wittgensteinian family resemblance (the martial first theme of the first movement in this case also exhibits it); but this similarity may not enhance the attractiveness of movements that could arguably be taken as the composer’s weakest in melodic invention. Liebeck plays the lyrical episodes, even if they don’t soar so high as the famous one in the First Concerto’s finale, with winning sensibility, and he’s commanding and brilliant by turns in the technical passages. In all, if he can’t make this movement surge with Bergsonian élan vital, he acquits it of the charge Paul Stoeving brought against Bruch’s later music of going “four-abreast” (even if Brabbins doesn’t bring Masur’s craggy rhetoric—which Accardo channels—to the opening movement). In Fanfare 32:3, I reviewed a collection of Bruch’s violin concertos and Scottish Fantasy played by James Ehnes (CBC 5245) and found myself making excuses for Ehnes, who nevertheless seemed to be making the best case for the later works since the earlier recordings by Accardo. He didn’t quite match the orchestra in majesty, and on and on. No such excuses need be sought for Liebeck’s versions of the Third Concerto (or the Scottish Fantasy, either), and those who seek to discover for themselves whether Bruch had declined by the time of his last numbered concerto may find to their delight in this recording that he didn’t.

In programming the Scottish Fantasy (which, as Potter points out, Bruch once identified in a program as his Third Concerto), Liebeck runs the risk of comparison to Jascha Heifetz (who reportedly liked it best of all concertos; he recorded it three times and included it in his television appearance), David Oistrakh (who recorded it twice), and Michael Rabin, not to mention Alfredo Campoli and Kyung-Wha Chung. But he and Brabbins sound atmospheric enough to hold their own in the introduction, and almost as suave as Oistrakh if not so taut as Heifetz in the following Adagio cantabile. In the ensuing Allegro, he suffers more, perhaps from propulsive over-drive and perhaps from an inability to put across the double-stopped passages with the panache they demand. Brabbins once again provides a loamy backdrop; and he and Liebeck conjure sweet magic in the transition to the slow movement. Liebeck’s 1785 “Wilhelmj” Guadagnini sounds particularly sweet-toned in the filigree he weaves around the Scottish folk song that provides the basis of that movement. Liebeck plays the war-like theme of the finale with martial authority, but perhaps his sensibility in the lyrical passages eclipses it.

Even those who find Heifetz’s performance of the Fantasy to be nonpareil should find much to admire in Liebeck’s version, and his playing in the Third Concerto sets a sort of new standard that should inspire its devotees and stimulate others to re-evaluate the piece’s strengths and weaknesses—and the recording transmits everything with opulent clarity. Most enthusiastically recommended. 

Robert Maxham

Publico Newspaper - Portugal 17/10/14

"It is apparent that there is growing interest from musicians, musicologists and editors in the repertoire of the virtuosos of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In general, these musicians composed for their own recitals showing their sweeping musical qualities. One of the great virtuosi who was born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and whose longevity allowed him to know the 60s of last century, thus giving a considerable recording legacy that bears witness to the tradition of Romanticism, was Fritz Kreisler, Viennese violinist (1875-1962). His music is no exception to the example of his peers and does not tolerate less than perfect technique, requiring performers of the highest caliber, those who make it look easy in the hard passages and give charm to the simplest melody.

The English violinist Jack Liebeck, with his 1785 Guadagnini, and the Russian pianist Katya Apekisheva are are such rare interpreters and make this CD a glorious monument to legacy of Kreisler. They have already made a brilliant record of Brahms. Now they prepare the ears for different environments, for suggestive rhythms, of dances, to passionate melodies, for intricate effects, but especially for rare and fascinating musical intuition. In addition to several original Kreisler pieces there are also his arrangements for violin and piano of famous works of Gluck, De Falla, Dvořák and Tartini. This is a CD that no violinist or any avid music lover learning the repertoire should stop listening. Do not expect any sign of modernity, just more refined maturity of Romanticism."

RUI PEREIRA 

http://www.publico.pt/culturaipsilon/noticia/o-violino-de-kreisler-1673122

Diapason Magazine - France

 

"Kreisler travels through time without a wrinkle. Jack Liebeck, a violinist from England is not well known on this side of the Channel, shows great spirit. He understands that we must not exaggerate to deliver delicacy as well as playfulness. 

With a real talent as a storyteller, he qualifies the characters in flexible tempos. A whimsical bow, a coaxing tone, a natural grace and virtuosity exalt the seduction of these miniatures. Liebeck penetrates the intimate tenderness (Melody taken from Gluck's Orpheus) with sensuality, supported by a clever and tactful partner. We fall under the spell of these readings, a little nothing (Syncopation, Polichinelle), its elegant and subtle rubatos portamentos (Dvorak). Often burning (Recitative and Scherzo, Tambourine Chinois) this violinist shows a nice balance between passion and candor (Falla), naivety and playfulness (Toy Soldiers' March), and everywhere reveals an endearing spontaneity. 

Besides the famous Caprice Viennese, Liebesleid and Liebesfreud, rarer pieces will be heard such as the Viennese March Miniature or La Chasse, in which Jack Liebeck is a measure of inventiveness. The album closes on a poignant vision of the ornate "Devil's Trill" by Tartini, the Viennese master rewarded with a dangerous pace. 

A nice lesson in style, decorated with an excellent introductory text signed by Tully Potter."

Diapason Magazine June 2014 - ***** 5 star

ClassicalSource.com

“Bruch’s Violin Concerto”. How often this short-hand description passes nowadays when ‘selling’ yet another performance of this very fine if exhausted piece, by which I mean Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor. Whether in calculated denial or through regrettable ignorance it seems not to matter to some people (whether vendors or buyers) that Max Bruch (1838-1920) wrote rather a lot of damn good music for violin and orchestra: three Concertos, Scottish Fantasy, a large-scale four-movement Serenade and several short pieces.

With this recording of Violin Concerto No.3, written for Joseph Joachim, it is difficult to understand its neglect. The opening movement storms into action immediately, a thoroughly arresting drama unfolds through impassioned orchestral writing that becomes the perfect foil for the incoming violinist, here Jack Liebeck. He thoroughly enjoys the technical fireworks (and has completely mastered them), the intense and tender lyricism, and the composer’s generous gestures. It’s a big piece, close on forty minutes here, and full of good and ingenious ideas, not least in the ambitious (18-minute) first movement, which Bruch fills admirably and assuredly with some tasty invention, as well as excitement and beauty. The Adagio that follows has an Elgarian wistfulness – really quite lovely, and moreish – and the finale a powerful drive, to which add a vivid and beguiling sense of narrative.

The wonderful Scottish Fantasy, composed for Sarasate, finds Bruch making much hay with indigenous melodies and his own imaginative craftsmanship. Suffice to say that this wonderful piece, full of seduction and skirling, receives an equally wonderful reading, given with love and aplomb, expansively too in the slow music, here made richly expressive, during which the BBCSSO’s strings have an entrancing sheen and the woodwind contributions are poetic.

Jack Liebeck’s playing throughout is of the highest order, technically immaculate, full of shape and shading, and with much feeling supplemented by a range of tone and dynamics that invests much into music that deserves far greater currency, although at least the Scottish Fantasy still makes it occasionally into concert and (other) recording schedules.

With full support from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins (he also conducts Chloë Hanslip’s version of Violin Concerto No.3, with the LSO on Warner Classics), excellent sound, and a robustly informative booklet note from Tully Potter, this is a top-drawer release, absolutely enlightening in terms of the Concerto and quite one of the best versions of the Fantasy.

We don’t really need another recording of the First Violin Concerto, but if Jack Liebeck were to make it, I could be proved wrong and would be delighted to be so. More than that, what would be truly mouth-watering is if he could now give us Concerto No.2 and the Serenade. Here’s hoping!

Colin Anderson Oct 2014

Fanfare Magazine Sept/Oct 2014

Jack Liebeck and Katya Apekisheva’s recital of pieces written or transcribed by Fritz Kreisler opens with the one often cited as Kreisler’s best, the Praeludium and Allegro in the Style of [Gaetano] Pugnani. Kreisler himself never recorded it, although Carl Flesch remembered that he took the Allegro no faster than MM=120. Kreisler must have played the work with the marked personality he displayed in pieces he did record; and though others have perhaps surpassed him in sheer technique, his recordings of his own works still sound incomparably haunting. Zino Francescatti endowed the Praeludium and Allegro with a sense of fancy that could seem almost wayward or headstrong; but Kreisler himself admired Francescatti’s playing. After Francescatti, Liebeck sounds tame, though crisp and determined. He seems more yielding in the Syncopation, and perhaps even more so in Schön Rosmarin, investing it with a charm and sensibility that may not be echt Viennese but isn’t bland, either. He brings an aching sense of yearning to Liebesleid and a heady razor-sharpness to Liebesfreud. All the while, he seems to have achieved these insights largely by avoiding a fussy concentration on detail (I’ve noticed that Kreisler’s playing wasn’t self-conscious in that way, either). Polichinelle sounds cockier and more strutting than it sometimes does and might provide an object lesson for students in character sketching. Liebeck’s reading of Tambourin chinois may not be particularly quick, but it’s sharply articulated and buoyant nonetheless. Kreisler’s arrangement of Gluck’s Mélodie (from Orfeo ed Euridice) provides a vehicle for Liebeck’s suavest singing manner; he’s engaging in the Toy Soldiers’ March—some may feel more engaging than the music itself warrants. La Chasse, perhaps inspired by the many pieces so denominated in Jean-Baptiste Cartier’s monumental collection L’Art du violon also may seem to lack character, but it’s a survivor from the early age of genre pieces as filtered through Kreisler’s antiquarian sensibilities—and now, Liebeck’s. Francescatti played Caprice viennois with breathtaking verve, making it almost his own. That that’s no mean feat appears from Eugène Ysaÿe’s almost laughably lugubrious version (although who would laugh at Ysaÿe?) of the slower section. Liebeck’s reading may not exhibit Francescatti’s panache, but it’s hardly lacking in personality (and Apekisheva sounds skittish at the end). The Allegretto in the Style of [Luigi] Boccherini sounds less strongly individual than does Kreisler’s version of Manuel de Falla’s Danse espagnole from La vida breve—a reading by Liebeck that flashes virtuosically and smolders with passionate ardor. Kreisler’s arrangement of Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance receives a similarly idiomatic reading from the duo. Liebeck comes out of the corner punching in Kreisler’s Marche miniature viennoise, though he relaxes into geniality in its middle section. The program closes with two of its most virtuosic works. The first of these, Recitativo and Scherzo for solo violin, may capture some of Ysaÿe’s style of playing, but Liebeck doesn’t indulge these gauzier aspects of the piece’s personality. He still sounds stentorian, though, on the G-string of the 1785 Wilhelmj Joannes Baptista Guadagnini.

The second of the concluding virtuoso showstoppers also represents the longest of the works: Kreisler’s arrangement of Giuseppe Tartini’s Sonata in G Minor, “The Devil’s Trill.” Kreisler in some ways tamed Tartini, for example in the second movement, in which Kreisler’s version takes the trills from the lower, rather than from the flintier upper, note. And the first movement of Tartini’s “original” comes supplied with double-stops. Arthur Grumiaux’s version sounded exceptionally elegant several generations ago, but so does Liebeck’s nowadays, in the smoothness of his style in the first movement and in the boldness of his opening strokes (and the cheerful bouncing of his bow) in the second. Tully Potter writes in the booklet notes about the stamina required in the cadenza, but my experience of playing and teaching the sonata leads me to appreciate the way in which Kreisler achieved an effect in the cadenza so much more hair-raising (and with so much less effort) than that in Tartini’s much more hand-wrenchingly difficult recollection, from a dream, of the Devil’s own trill. That fiction (Tartini easy, Kreisler difficult) could be perpetuated by a version as sulfurous as Liebeck’s.

Some violinists and aficionados of Kreisler’s compositions—and less specialized listeners as well—may feel that Liebeck seems most at home in the arrangements of works by Falla and Dvořák; but he’s generally convincing throughout the program, and so is Apekisheva where the music allows her to be. The release can be warmly recommended as a generally well-played program with several very, very high spots and with overall reverberant and life-like recorded sound. Robert Maxham

Amati.com - Kreisler - May 2014

"The world of the Viennese salon comes to life in this beautifully structured programme drawn from Fritz Kreisler’s finest miniatures. Too often the great violinist’s original pieces, pastiches and transcriptions are confined to the encore department; only a few of them are recorded frequently enough. It is a particular treat to hear a collection as sympathetic and well-contrasted as Liebeck and Apekisheva’s.

The spirit of Kreisler’s idiom has become notoriously hard to capture around a century on, and the atmosphere’s balance of ‘schwung’, nostalgia, charm, eloquence and sparkle sometimes eludes stressed-out modern virtuosos. Not so Liebeck, who together with his sympathetic pianist aims for the bullseye and strikes true.

The programme opens with the Praeludium and Allegro – an ideal starter with its faux-Baroque grandeur. The waltzes – Schön Rosmarin, Liebesleid and Liebesfreud – catch just the right airy Straussian rhythm, complete with subtle rubato, and the ragtime charm of Syncopation feels lamplit and sepia-toned.

Numbers such as the Marche miniature viennoise and Danse espagnole become huge fun, with the Gluck Mélodie (the ‘Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ from Orfeo ed Euridice) an unexpected oasis of tranquility. The idiom’s intimacy lets us feel that Liebeck is not merely playing to us, but engaging in conversation. Once he is unleashed on the Kreisler arrangement of Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata, however, you realise he has been holding back the full power of his tone, ready for appreciation in the bigger work. Apekisheva provides vigorous, sprightly rhythm and tender counterpoint at the keyboard.

In a word: gorgeous."

Jessica Duchen

[link]

The Observer - Kreisler - 27/4/14

"This cracking box of Fritz Kreisler fireworks marks the beginning of young violinist Jack Liebeck's partnership with Hyperion. It might seem a conventional way to start – most major talents feel the need to tackle Kreisler's work on disc – but these are so refreshingly bright and zestful they feel like new pieces. The instantly familiar Praeludium and Allegro, for example, is dismissed with exhilarating haste, as is Kreisler's immensely demanding transcription of Dvorák's E minor Slavonic Dance. But perhaps the most impressive performance in the entire collection is the conquering of Kreisler's adaptation of Tartini's Devil's Trill sonata, which surrenders completely to Liebeck and Katya Apekisheva's formidable technique."

The Strad Magazine - Kreisler - May 2014

"Jack Liebeck and Katya Apekisheva have stripped away the sugary coating that has, over the years, surrounded Fritz Kreisler’s original compositions and revealed pleasing duets and often interesting conversational pieces where the piano plays an equal role. Eighteen tracks contain his best known works, Liebesleid, Liebesfreud and Tambourin chinois, together with a sprinkling of the less frequently performed pieces including the Toy Soldiers’ March and the highly energised La chasse.

Liebeck seems a little anxious to push the tempo forward at the opening of the Praeludium and Allegro, but elsewhere tempos and the adherence to the printed dynamic markings are unfailingly accurate. Of course we remember and cherish Kreisler’s recordings with his wide and warm vibrato in such works as Polichinelle and Marche miniature viennoise, but although Liebeck’s tone, by comparison, is more open and vibrant, both violinists share the serious approach that is a long way from the throwaway encores we normally hear. An outgoing show of violin virtuosity is left until the end with quite superb accounts of the Recitative and Scherzo, and Kreisler’s arrangement of Tartini’s ‘Devil’s Trill’ Sonata.

The engineers provide an ideal balance and pleasing sound to complete an outstanding release." 

International Record Review - Kreisler - April 2014

"This estimable Kreisler compilation from the young British violinist jack Liebeck heralds his new alliance with Hyperion, and one could hardly imagine a more propitious start to their relationship. Kreisler anthologies are two a penny, though, and while every fiddler feels duty bound to tackle this repertoire at some point, surprisingly few have the musical intelligence needed to make themselves sound much more than sycophantic pretenders. But Liebeck is no run-of-the mill plagiarist and nor (as his recent Dvorak and Brahms CDs for Sony testify) is he an apologist for being different for the sake of it, and these disarmingly affectionate and often brilliant accounts of these Kreisler favourites prove unusually satisfying.

Time was, and not so very long ago, when great violinists were instantly distinguished by their own sound, so one could recognize a Heifetz, Elman, Szigeti or Huberman from just a cursory hearing. But none was more individual or distinctive than Fritz Kreisler himself, and the bewitching subtlety and inimitable Viennese gemütlichkeit of his playing remains incredibly difficult to emulate convincingly. Perhaps that's why Liebeck never tries to, and in remaining faithful to his own playing style, he and his dextrous accompanist Katya Apekisheva bring abundant freshness and spontaneity to these accounts.

How Kreisler finally admitted passing off pieces of his own as original works by little-known Classical and Baroque masters need not be repeated here, and Liebeck includes most of the usual suspects, astutely chosen from Kreisler's perennial 'Classical Manuscripts', 'Masterworks of the Violin' and 'Original Compositions', but there are several less familiar pieces here, too, including the Marche miniature viennoise and Toy Soldiers' March. Liebeck and Apekisheva begin their recital with the Praeludium and Allegro, which gets a nobly severe, urgent reading, nearly a minute faster than the great Oscar Shumsky's on Nimbus, the modern violinist who came closest of all to faithfully distilling the true a essence of Kreisler's artistry in his own peerless recordings of these works. Turning to the exquisite Viennese triptych of Schön Rosmarin, Liebsfreud and Liebesleid, it seemed useful to compare Liebeck's performances with Kreisler's. One can only admire the way Liebeck infuses these familiar bon-bons with touches of winning originality which appear genuinely spontaneous, though nobody, not even Shumsky, quite manages to re-create Kreisler's inimitable rubato in Schön Rosmarin. 

Particularly superb are the transcriptions of Dvorak's F minor Slavonic Dance, Op. 72 No. 2 and the 'Dance espagnole' from Falla's La vida breve, both of which are hugely demanding for the violinist and played with elan and bravura here by Liebeck. Only in the Dvorak transcription does one miss the subdued introspection which Kreisler himself brought to the poignant main theme. Tambourin chinois gets a convincingly idiomatic reading, too, though Liebeck's deft glissandos are so metrically accurate as to sound a little clinical and even a tad self-conscious alongside Shunasky's, and even more markedly, beside Kreisler s own, where the unforced naturalness of his playing carries the day. Still, there's no gainsaying the panache and precision of Liebeck's account, which is sure to delight.

The problem, if there is one, is that Liebeck's performances inhabit an entirely different sound-world. Where both Shurnsky and Kreisler himself could modulate and nuance their vibrato in a thousand different ways, and not just alter its speed and amplitude, contemporary fiddlers (and I'd count Liebeck amongst them) have by and large lost the true art of vibrato, with everything subsumed by a tonal homogeneity and uniformity that can rob music like this of its essential charm and intimacy.

Still, this is unquestionably a Kreisler disc to which I'll he returning often and always with pleasure, for these spirited and discerning readings have so much to commend them as to make even minor qualms seem churlish. Liebeck and Apekisheva are heard at their brilliant best in Kreisler's own formidably taxing reworking of the G minor 'Devil's Trill' Sonata by Tartini. There is indeed something of the Mephistophelean about this astounding account and Liebeck sounds stunning in Kreisler's intimidating cadenza. A fitting climax to a warm-hearted and generous compilation, even if one occasionally misses Shumsky's gravitas and Kreisler's ineffable geniality."

Michael Jamieson