Apasionado: Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet (2016)

Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet - Waxman

Ning Feng, Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias

Rossen Milanov

A ‘Spanish’ violin concerto
It has been said of the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns that one could discuss French music for hours without even mentioning his name. Though a famous composer, his music was not considered typically French in the same way as that of Fauré, Franck or Debussy. And the same could be said of Édouard Lalo, who owes his fame mainly to the violin concertos still performed to this day, including the Symphonie espagnole, a symphony which is really a concerto. The work’s many Spanish traits can perhaps be explained by the Spanish roots of the ancestors of this French composer, who was born in the Belgian Rijssel. But Lalo also composed operas (of which Le Roi d’Ys enjoyed particular popularity) and, like Saint-Saëns, a considerable amount of chamber music. But the Symphonie espagnole opus 21 remains his best-known work, as it was in his own day. And it was this piece that inspired Tchaikovsky several years later to write his only violin concerto.

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Ning Feng

Born in Chengdu, China, Ning Feng studied at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and London’s Royal Academy of Music where he was the first student ever to be awarded 100% for his final recital. The recipient of prizes at the Hanover International, Queen Elisabeth and Yehudi Menuhin International violin competitions, Ning Feng was First Prize winner of the 2005 Michael Hill International Violin Competition (New Zealand), and in 2006 won first prize in the International Paganini Competition, following in the footsteps of violinists such as Kavakos, Kremer and Accardo.

Established at the highest level in China, Ning Feng performs regularly in his native country in recital, with their many local orchestras, and with major touring orchestras. Now based in Berlin and performing worldwide, Ning Feng has developed a reputation internationally as an artist of great lyricism and emotional transparency, displaying tremendous bravura and awe-inspiring technical accomplishment.

In recent seasons Ning has performed with orchestras such as the Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer, Russian State Symphony/Vladimir Jurowski, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg/Tang and in halls such as Sydney Opera House, Moscow’s Great Hall, Vienna Konzerthaus, Berlin Konzerthaus, Shanghai Oriental Arts Center and Beijing’s NCPA. In recital he has played in prestigious series and festival such as Vancouver Recital Series and Hong Kong International Chamber, Prague Spring, and Schleswig-Holstein Festivals.

In the 2013/14 season, Ning’s orchestral engagements include his debut with the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra with Ivan Fischer, a return to the Hong Kong Philharmonic/van Zweden both in Hong Kong and Taipei, his debut with the Asturias Symphony Orchestra/Carneiro and concerts in China, Singapore, Taiwan and Macau with the Kaoshing Symphony and NCPA Orchestras. In recital, Ning Feng will perform in cities such as Hong Kong, Moscow, Boston and across China, and with Igor Levit and Sebastian Klinger he will perform piano trios across Germany, including at the Heidelberg, Ludwigsburg and Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festivals. Other festival appearances include his return to the Menuhin Festival Gstaad and Kissinger Sommer Festival where he performs every year and where he will be an Artist-in-Residence in 2014.

Ning Feng records for Channel Classics in the Netherlands. His most recent recording of the solo sonatas by Bartok, Prokofiev and Hindemith was released in August 2013. His previous disc, Solo, featuring works by Paganini, Kreisler, Berio, Schnittke and others, received a first-class review by Audiophile Audition: “You will be blown away by the artistry of this album, and blown away in great sound to boot. This is a stunning recording of solo violin works by a variety of composers… and there are really few violinists who are able to pull it off. Ning Feng is one of those who can, not only for his sterling playing but also because of the rabid intelligence behind the selection of pieces here. None of these works is anything less than enthralling, and a few approach the incandescent. Milstein’s arrangement of the Paganiniana has never been bettered… this is an unqualified recommendation of a wonderful album that demonstrates the highest artistic and programming skills possible.” His recording of the Bruch Scottish Fantasy and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin will be released later in 2013.

Ning Feng plays a 1721 Stradivari violin, known as the ‘MacMillan’, on private loan, kindly arranged by Premiere Performances of Hong Kong.

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Apasionado: Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet (2016)

Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet - Waxman

Ning Feng, Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias


(...) a dazzling left hand and a firm, rich tone which one cannot help but admire (...)

    Audio Review

Feng’s tone is small, but centred and well-projected (...) the bow-work is excellent (...) an interesting album showcasing an artist whose style makes him well-worth listening to amongst the bland, faceless emissions that so often pass for violin playing today. (...) excellent depth, the use of native playback brings an analogue-like sense of space and acoustic and there is no excessive reverberation. (...) amongst digital versions of these works this is by some distance the finest sound available.

    Audiophile Audition

"So far in his recording career, Chinese violinist Ning Feng has tackled only a couple of the warhorses of the violin repertoire, namely the Bruch and Tchaikovsky concertos. With the current recording, he adds a once-popular concerto to his catalog. As the name of Édouard Lalo’s work implies, it combines elements of concerto, symphony, and symphonic suite in a unique manner. With its Spanish flavor, colorful orchestration, and varied emotional palette, it should still be a crowd pleaser but is heard rarely in the concert hall these days and rarely recorded. It’s a very recommendable version, too, one that captures the wide-ranging landscape of the piece, from the fiery opening through the operatic drama of the Andante to the ebullience of the Scherzando second movement and finale. Feng’s performance is fully engaged, while the Spanish orchestra seems to relish Lalo’s masterly imitation of Iberian musical gestures. (Then again, the Spanish musical idiom was a natural for Lalo, who, though born in northernmost France, came from a family of Spanish military men.) The other works are the kind of short virtuoso vehicles with which violin soloists filled out their programs in earlier times. Rarely programmed nowadays, they still retain their popularity with armchair audiences. Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen (“Gypsy Airs”) uses genuine gypsy melodies, beginning with a long-breathed, melancholy tune that the solo violin embellishes, swooping from the lowest to the highest register, and ending with a fiery czárdás—a melody Liszt had earlier cribbed for one of his Hungarian Rhapsodies (No. 13). It’s appropriate that the album include a take on gypsy music from a Frenchman, one with roots in the Basque region near the Spanish border. Ravel’s Tzigane is broadly imitates the style of gypsy music, though unlike Sarasate’s work it contains no authentic gypsy melodies. However, like Sarasate’s work, it is an endurance test for the violinist even more so, as the solo violin must navigate mine fields of quick pizzicato passages, as well as sing sweetly through long stretches of harmonics. With Romanza Andaluza, Sarasate returns to home turf. It’s a piece with a sleepy, lilting rhythm. Fireworks aren’t called for here. Instead, the violin comments on the tune, maintaining a songful demeanor, though of course the soloist gets to show off his or her command of a variety of techniques from challenging double stops to high harmonics. One review I read of this recording groused that Franz Waxman’s Carmen Fantasy is dull and foursquare compared to Sarasate’s better-known fantasy, which should have been included on the program instead. However, if you’re like me, you’ll be happy to hear something other than the same old same old. As it turns out, Waxman’s piece is anything but dull and manages to erect new hurdles in the soloist’s path. The Fantasy is an expansion of a piece included in the 1946 film Humoresque, starring John Garfield as a concert violinist. Jascha Heifetz requested the expanded version and thus gave violinists a well-constructed virtuoso vehicle that starts, as it must, with the pomp of the March of the Toreadors, segues to Carmen’s Habanera, L’amour est une oiseau rebelle, and ends with the Gypsy Song from Act 2. Waxman manages to work some interesting counterpoint into the finale, along with the usual virtuoso gambit for the soloist. Ning Feng delivers all these demanding works with the fire, ice, and sugar, in different measures, that they require. His technique is beyond cavil, of course, but he also plays with a purity and sweetness of tone rare among the current crop of virtuosi, as far as I’m concerned. And it’s good to hear from Rossen Milanov again, one-time assistant conductor of my hometown band, the Philadelphia Orchestra. The convergence of Eastern European conductor and Spanish orchestra certainly nails down both musical strains in this program, providing properly atmospheric support to Feng’s virtuoso fiddling. Bright, open DSD sound — with ample bass and very present percussion — helps to seal the deal on this entertaining survey of violin showpieces. Apasionado or purely virtuoso, these works deliver violinistic fireworks by the carload."

Lee Passarella at Audiophile Audition[read full review]

    Music Emotion

De stukken op deze cd zijn sfeervol, romantisch en vol temperament. Een absolute top productie.

    Music Frames

(...) a striking musical conversation with the orchestra (...) Ning Feng shows a musical cohesion. A way of playing that makes ‘Apasionado’ is really a great passionate album!


Hoe speelt Feng? Als een god in Frankrijk, speels, zwierig, charmant, poëtisch, maar ook op het scherpst van de snede, met groot virtuoos vertoon, in grootse stijl. (...) dit is violistiek van wereldklasse (...) prachtige, volmaakt uitgebalanceerde opname (...)


Ning Feng geigt mit Stil, Brillanz und Elan. (...) Sein Virtuosität dringt niemals in den Vorgrund, sondern ist Mittel zum Zweck. (...)


Acrobatiek op een Stradivarius uit 1721 (...) halsbrekende vioolkunsten (...) gloedvol vioolspel (...)

    Der neue merker

(...) Grandezza and Temperament auf höchste Niveau.

    ClassicFM Drive – CD of the Week

A fantastic new release (...) Daring virtuosity and perfectly pitched sweetness throughout.

    Audiophile Audition

Apasionado or purely virtuoso, these works deliver violinistic fireworks by the carload. (...) Ning Feng delivers all these demanding works with the fire, ice, and sugar, in different measures, that they require. His technique is beyond cavil, of course, but he also plays with a purity and sweetness of tone rare among the current crop of virtuosi. (...)

Apasionado: Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet (2016)

Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet - Waxman

Ning Feng, Orquesta Sinfonica del Principado de Asturias

Cables: van den Hul
Digital Converters: Grimm DSD A/D
Mastering Engineer: Jared Sacks
Mastering Equipment: Grimm LS1
Microphones: Bruel & Kyaer, Schoeps
Mixing Board: Rens Heijnis custom made
Producer: Jared Sacks
Recording Engineer: Jared Sacks, Ernst Coutinho
Recording location: Auditorio Palacio de Congresos Principe Felipe, Oviedo, Spain
Recording Software: Merging
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD64

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37916: Apasionado: Sarasate, Lalo, Ravel, Bizet
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Zigeunerweisen, op. 20
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Symphonie Espagnole op. 21 - Allegro non troppo
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Symphonie Espagnole op. 21 - Scherzando
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Symphonie Espagnole op. 21 - Inermezzo
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Symphonie Espagnole op. 21 - Andante
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Symphonie Espagnole op. 21 - Rondo
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Romanza Andaluza, op. 22
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Tzigane (1924)
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Carmen Fantasy (1946)
Bizet - Waxman
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