A Consoling Violin Recital
Consolations Margaret Maya Magub, violin. Hsin-I Huang, piano. CRD Records 3540 Total Time: 65:12 Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****
Listeners may not be quite familiar with violinist Margaret Maya Magub, but they may have seen her playing with the likes of Adele, Bono, Paul McCartney, and Sting. She has also performed as a soloist with the Mozart Chamber Players, the Academy of St.-Martin-in-the-Fields, and at numerous chamber music festivals. For this recital she is joined by pianist Hsin-I Huang who may be familiar to those who scan the orchestra players of film scores where she has worked with Marco Beltrami and Ramin Djawadi. In this new release, the two artists came together during the shutdowns of the pandemic virtually to begin crafting the program on the present release. From the midst of the struggles inherent during this time, Magub and Huang collaborated from their home studios working through this new experimental connection and music-making.
At the core of the recital here is the belief that music indeed soothes the soul and provides comfort. When words cannot provide the solace we need nor articulate the depths of one’s own emotion, music can provide the outlet. Magub’s desire to find an outlet to play chamber music led her to explore some of the more nostalgic pieces that have been transcribed for solo violin while also crafting newer versions of her own.
She started with Liszt’s set of Consolations originally for piano, though the third was transcribed by the great Nathan Milstein. From there she explored some of the music in her father’s personal collection that he had amassed in the 1950s and 1960s. From these she chose works that are both familiar from many of the recorded recitals of that period and earlier. Conceptually, the album aims to provide an anchored sense of hope in the midst of these familiar works which offer a sense of reflection and contemplation. The Liszt set serves as a sort of conclusion to the first half of the album which opens with selections by Robert Schumann (Abendlied), the familiar “Meditation” from Thais by Massenet, and Rachmaninov’s Vocalise. These are quite moving performances which allow for Magub to provide a sense of her shaping of long, lyrical melodic writing.
The second portion of the album shifts to what might be considered “encore” like pieces that have graced many a solo violinist recording and concert. The Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria” arrangement opens this half which also includes some new transcriptions of music from Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words and “On Wings of Song”, the beautiful Kreisler Liebesleid and an arrangement of his from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko, music by Paradis (in a transcription by violinist Samuel Dushkin) and Handel round things off nicely with the Chopin Raindrop Prelude providing a nice conclusion. Each of the works here carries its own memories for Magub who writes about these in her extensive notes for the album. Listeners too will likely recall their own experiences with some of these works either as performers or listeners. They are performed with loving care.
With the set up for recording being a bit different than what one might be allowed in a studio or hall, at first the sound might seem a bit dry. However, there is a greater intimacy present in the recording which connects well to the album’s intent and brings the listener closer into the musical sound picture. The piano acoustic balances quite well here and Huang’s articulation and pedaling provide just the right extra support to help enhance the music and performances overall.
Older listeners will likely have their favorite renditions and performances of many of these pieces but Magub’s performances and repertoire choices here bring together a great amount of gorgeous music that should hold up well and be a great souvenir for fans who now return to hear her in concert. Consolations is an intimate collection of classics that reminds us that provides beautiful musical comfort as we emerge into a (hopefully) post-pandemic era. Individual tracks are dropping on streaming platforms with the full album to be released in early June.