Ursula Bagdasarjanz - CD Reviews

CD Reviews

The Strad, August 2009, by Julian Haylock.
Recordings by the legendary violinist Ursula Bagdasarjanz (b. 1934) are much prized by contemporary collectors, most especially her 1961 cycle of Othmar Schoeck's complete music for violin and piano with the composer's gifted daughter Gisela (Gallo CD-1249). The second volume in a reissue of these classic radio tapes features the op.22 variations an the op.16 and 46 sonatas in performances so authoritative and responsive to the music's remote idiom (think Hindemith with added warmth and charm) that it is impossible to imagine them ever being superseded. The mono recordings have been transferred most expertly, with plenty of body to the sound and a smooth treble response.

Fanfare Magazine, 6 August 2010, by Adrian Corleonis.
Ursula Bagdasarjanz: Schoeck Violin Sonatas on Gallo
Classical Reviews – Composers & Works
Chez Bagdasarjanz and Gisela Schoeck, the first sonata's lyricism and crackling high spirits awaken to sheer vivacity; the second's rumination's and eeriness acquire a mordant and suddenly compelling conviction, lifting both works into a dimension only half-heartedly hinted at in other readings. The early 1905 sonata without opus number takes on a heretofore unexpected charm. Rescued from Swiss radio tapes made in 1961, Gallo's sound is close, well balanced, and detailed. A companion issue featuring Bagdasarjanz performing Schoeck's Violin Concerto with the Lugano Radio Symphony (Gallo CD-1250) exhibits a similar nuance-rife fluency, while one hopes that more tapes of Gisela Schoeck will surface - her brilliance and swagger through the sonatas make one avid to hear her again in any repertoire. Enthusiastically recommended. – Adrian Corleonis

Fanfare Magazine, 6 October 2010, by Adrian Corleonis.
Departments - Want List
Accompanying the volatile, inspired violinistics of Ursula Bagdasarjanz, Gisela Schoeck animates her father’s violin sonatas with an expressive flair beside which even the most sympathetic performances of all other would-be interpreters seem stodgy, academic. These artifacts raise the question once again, If one has heard a work only in competently clueless, professionally respectable performances, has one really heard it?

The WholeNote, November 2010, by Terry Robbins.
Ursula Bagdasarjanz Vol. 1: Bach; Nardini; Mozart; Bartok Ursula Bagdasarjanz; Luciano Sgrizzi; Fernande Kaeser (Gallo CD-1248)
Ursula Bagdasarjanz Vol. 2 - Othmar Schoeck Ursula Bagdasarjanz; Gisela Schoeck (Gallo CD-1249)
Current Reviews - Early, Classical and Beyond
Volume One features works by Bach, Nardini, Mozart and Bartok, recorded between 1960 and 1969, and demonstrates not only Bagdasarjanz’s performance range but also the consistent elements in her playing: a big, warm tone; faultless intonation; a fairly heavy (but not wide) vibrato which is always used intelligently and sensitively; and a sophisticated sense of phrasing. The Bach A minor solo sonata is technically flawless, with a great sense of line and some remarkably tight triple-stopping in the Fuga. The big tone is evident in the Nardini D major sonata, the Mozart Bb major sonata K378, and Bartok’s First Rhapsody. The piano sound is slightly fuzzy in the Nardini, but otherwise the transfers are excellent.

"By far the most significant of the two CDs, however, is Volume Two, which features the complete works for violin and piano by the Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck. Recorded for Swiss Radio in 1961, only 4 years after the composer’s death, the three sonatas feature Schoeck’s daughter Gisela as the accompanist in performances that The Strad magazine rightly called “so authoritative… that it is impossible to imagine them ever being superseded.” All three sonatas – Op.16, Op.22 and Op.46 - are not part of the standard repertoire and are rarely performed these days, which is a real shame; the first two in particular, dating from the early 1900s, are strongly personal works reminiscent of Brahms and Franck. Again, the re-mastered sound is excellent."

"If you know Bagdasarjanz’s playing – and recordings of her have always been pretty scarce – then you won’t need to be told to get these CDs; if you don’t know her playing, get them anyway – you won’t be disappointed!"

American Record Guide, 1/2011, by MAGIL
SCHOECK Violin Sonatas
Ursula Badgasarjanz (violin), Gisela Schoeck (piano)
Gallo 1249, 50 minutes
Othmar Schoeck (1886-1957) was one of Switzerland’s leading composers in the first half of the 20th Century. These works for violin show the influence of Brahms and a good deal of technical proficiency. While Schoeck lacked the trailblazing imagination of the very greatest composers, his themes are lovely, his harmonic knowledge has an impressive range, and his material is expertly worked out. These are satisfying works, and as I listen to them I never feel that they are lacking. Of the three works presented here, the First and Second Violin Sonatas are the best. The Second is more harmonically fluid, but the First has stronger themes and is more affecting. The Variations, without opus number, don’t hold my interest as well. They are from 1905, the earliest of the three works, so that comes as no surprise. Swiss violinist Ursula Bagdasarjanz recorded these pieces for Swiss radio in 1961. The composer’s daughter Gisela plays the piano and does a very fine job. The sound is a bit dry, and I wish the piano were a bit more forward, but these are very good readings.

Fanfare Magazine by Robert Maxham, February 2012. ©
Ursula Bagdasarjanz: The fifth volume of Swiss violinist Ursula Bagdasarjanz's CD-collection
The fifth volume of Swiss violinist Ursula Bagdasarjanz’s collection of studio and live recordings on the Gallo label contains three sonatas, one each by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johannes Brahms. She and pianist Luciano Sgrizzi recorded Mozart’s Sonata in G Major in Studio Lugano in April 1963; the engineers surrounded the duo with very little reverberation and Bagdasarjanz sounds very close up, but the realistic recorded sound virtually places a listener in the room (or places the listener in a virtual room) with the musicians. In general, Bagdasarjanz combines rhythmic incisiveness with almost period starchiness tonally and stylistically. But her vibrant sense of and fidelity to what she obviously believes to be the music’s rhetoric combine to make her reading of ­Mozart commanding and, ultimately, convincing — especially in the first movement, in which she reveals an unsuspected urgency. Not so suave in Mozart as Arthur Grumiaux or so sharply focused on detail as Catherine Mackintosh, she combines the best aspects of both approaches and deserves on the basis of this reading to be mentioned alongside them on any shortlist of Mozart interpreters.

The live performances of Beethoven’s and Brahms’s sonatas with pianist Bruno F. Saladin come from 1964, approximately the same date as the studio recording of Mozart. Caught at a greater distance in them, her tone loses some of its edge and her reading correspondingly loses some of its detail, but there’s enough left for any normal recorded sound. Her reading of the “Kreutzer” Sonata takes a very different tack than that of Jascha Heifetz or Zino Francescatti, whose performances set a sort of benchmark in white-hot intensity; Bagdasarjanz seems from the first notes of the introduction warm rather than hot. Her reading, for example, of what I’ve called the Janissary theme doesn’t rollick with whipped-up frenzy, but presents a different and, again, as in Mozart, a convincing, though kinder and gentler, view. Not that the reading lacks the passion that might inspire a novel, but it’s diverted through calmer and more amiable streams. Bagdasarjanz plays the theme of the variation movement with a warmth, subtlety, and geniality that sound like Fritz Kreisler’s — except that Kreisler himself played the theme more straightforwardly and with greater rhythmic springiness. That geniality continues through the first two variations (Bagdasarjanz sounds particularly silvery in the second of them), but she and Saladin dim the lights for the minore variation. The following maggiore serves in this reading almost as a Hegelian synthesis of the preceding two, while the Molto adagio sums everything up in a penetrating synopsis. If the somewhat slow tempo at the finale’s opening makes the reading sound less urgent at its outset, her tonal weight and general storminess still generate plenty of driving force.

Bagdasarjanz soars in the first movement of Brahms’s sonata; her reading never seems undesirably light in weight or tone (an analogous predication in the terms of scholastic philosophy). In fact, her tone, though pure and mercurial in the upper registers, remains almost seductively dusky in the lower ones. In the slow movement’s opening passages, it oozes with honeyed richness. Only very occasionally does security falter in the third movement (but it’s a live recording); on the other hand, the brisk reading of the finale sweeps everything before it with concerto-like massiveness.

Bagdasarjanz’s recital, assembled from various sources, makes a satisfying whole, not least because of the violinist’s integrity and insight into each of the styles she channels. Very strongly recommended as playing of the very first order, in music of the very first order: a wonderful way of encountering Bagdasarjanz, either for the first time or on a repeat visit. – Robert Maxham

Music education, Paris, France, 2012
MOZART-BEETHOVEN-BRAHMS. VDE Gallo (www.vdegallo.ch) : CD 1352. TT : 78’27.
Violinist Ursula Bagdasarjanz, who has said, "I get my energy from music: it is the breath that gives rhythm to my life," is, as a concert performer, virtuoso and pedagogue, one of the most prominent figures in Swiss musical life. For the culmination of her international career, she has put together a collection of CDs with radio and digitally remastered recordings (2008-2011), as well as a live recording. In this fifth volume, accompanied by pianist Luciano Sgrizzi, she performs Mozart’s Sonata in G Major, K. 302 (1963, Studio Lugano), with remarkable sonority and sensitivity; and with pianist Bruno F. Saladin, Beethoven’s famous "Kreutzer" Sonata in A Major, op. 47, and Brahms’s Sonata in D Minor, op. 108, both recorded live in 1964. These are lovely reminders of a glorious musical and artistic past, whose future is assured by this disc, which will delight violinists well beyond the borders of Switzerland.

Codex Flores, 29 January 2013.
Translation of the article on Ursula Bagdasarjanz on © www.codexflores.ch of 29.01.2013

Ursula Bagdasarjanz on "MusicWeb International, March 2013
Othmar Schoeck CD (Vol. 2 & Vol. 3) has been reviewed on MusicWeb International

Ursula Bagdasarjanz on "MusicWeb International, May 2013
Johann Sebastian Bach, Pietro Nardini, Wolfgang amadeus Mozart, Béla Bartók CD (Vol. 1) has been reviewed on MusicWeb International

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