Voicu's understated virtuosity makes it to the CD

CLASSICAL

ION VOICU: THE DECCA RECORDINGS

Decca Eloquence 480 7841 (2 CDs)

5 stars

Those who tuned in to Singapore Broadcasting Corporation's 92.4FM stereo classical station during the 1970s and 1980s might remember the name of Romanian violinist Ion Voicu (1923 to 1997), whose long-playing records were aired in those more interesting and eclectic days of radio.

This album brings together the contents of Voicu's three LPs from 1965 to 1973. They were never previously issued on CD.

Voicu was born into the Romani tradition of violin playing and a student of Georges Enesco and later the Ukraine-born David Oistrakh.

This pedigree would account for his refined playing and understated virtuosity.

The album's first disc, coupling the popular Mendelssohn (E minor) and Bruch (No. 1) violin concertos, is enjoyable for its directness and simplicity of approach. He was partnered with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the late Spaniard Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos.

Violin sonatas of the 20th century make up the rest of the 150 minutes, all of which are tuneful and accessible.

With French pianist Monique Haas, Prokofiev's Sonata No. 2 (originally for flute) and Debussy's late Sonata make for fascinating contrasts.

The Second Violin Sonata by Darius Milhaud is a delightful rarity, with folk music influences and pentatonic melodies that remind one of Chinese music.

The third album includes a thrilling reading of Ysaye's unaccompanied Sonata No. 5, and has Romanian pianist Victoria Stefanescu accompanying him in the Second Sonatas of Ravel and Enesco.

The Ravel is famous for its Blues second movement, where violin mimics banjo, while the slightly more dissonant and darkly hued Enesco is a real find.

Here is a showcase of violin playing of true distinction.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2019, with the headline 'Voicu's understated virtuosity makes it to the CD'. Print Edition | Subscribe