VIRGIL BOUTELLIS-TAFT

VIRGIL BOUTELLIS-TAFT

PRESS

The young violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft was a student of the late Suzanne Gessner at the Paris Conservatory before continuing a musical journey from Budapest to London and Tel Aviv. His CD, "Incantation", shows that this path has been beneficial as he already shows a remarkable mastery of his instrument (a magnificent Venetian Montagnana from 1742 lent to him by a private patron). What first impresses you in Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s playing is the plenitude of a warm and pure sound, elegant and sensual, which marvelously develops the expressive intensity of Kol Nidrei by Bruch or of Nigun by Bloch. This young man possesses, most certainly, a romantic sensibility but he also knows how to go beyond lyrical deployment, he knows how to deepen the musical line to open troubling, almost magnetic perspectives, as in Chausson’s Poem. The unifying theme, that of incantation, gives the spiritual key to this success, and is also enhanced by the magnificent accompaniment offered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Jac van Steen. An album to live with.
Concept records are like collages. Beyond the pieces gathered, it is the overall result that makes it unique… like the wealth of links that the receiver likes to find in its often disparate components. Marc Trautmann's skillful presentation of this recording offers avenues of relationships, a unifying perspective that justifies the title of the album. But each listener is free to have another reading of this surprising and magnificent arrangement. Everyone will recognize the obvious: Virgil Boutellis-Taft, for this second disc, confirms that he is an immense violinist. He brings together seven pieces by composers from different eras, cultures and climates and makes them vibrate, snicker, meditate and pray with a quivering lyricism. If incantation there is, song and mystery come from the virtuoso and moving playing of the young French soloist who combines warmth and elegance, rigor and commitment, momentum and concentration. From the rare and baroque Tomaso Vitali (a hypnotic and imposing Chaconne with insistent virtuoso digressions) to Shigeru Umebayashi's film music (the famous and heady Yumeji's Theme), a whole distant world of affinities and refinements is illuminated, that our compatriot's subtle violin weaves, like a mysteriously spidery web. It doesn't matter that the comical skeletons of Saint-Saëns' Danse macabre clash at its heart, here re-orchestrated and more incisive. They bring a welcome ironic and distanced touch to this learned and picturesque composition. And in this piece, although deliberately out of tune, the instrument manages to disturb. Even if the minor key is dominant in the collected works, the recurrent presence of repetitive rhythms, undoubtedly at the origin of the choice of pages, does not impose uniformity. On the contrary, it is to the modulation of sound climates and cultural backgrounds that the interpreter, an inspired poet, makes us sensitive. The scores and their flawless technical execution take us into sensitive universes with innumerable intimate correspondences, rich in spiritual elevation. Thus the beautiful songs of Max Bruch and Ernest Bloch, Adagio on two Hebrew melodies here transposed from cello to violin for the first, or the improvisation, one of the images of Hasidic life for the second, offer the echoing voices of meditation and prayer, exalted in its tender effusion by a modest and moving violin. Similarly, Tchaikovsky's Sérénade mélancolique and Chausson's Poème for violin and orchestra, the album's matrix and beacon, call and respond to each other, in a disturbing play of infinite reflections, like that of Turgenev. The soul of the Russian composer seems to melt into that of the French musician, who, enlightened, in return is absorbed by it. And it is this spiritual and mysterious miracle that the vibrant playing of the interpreter and the bewitching charm of the chosen pages have created. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra imposes its noble power, without mentioning the name of the one who leads its forces. It fervently accompanies Virgil Boutellis-Taft to whom we can safely predict a radiant future, so obvious are his technical qualities and the height of his artistic inspiration.
After an impressive release concert at the Salle Gaveau that was sold out, here is the haunting new album by young French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft in the best form, in collaboration with the prestigious Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jac Van Steen. It’s a tender loving companion for evasion and a balm for the heart in these times of trial. If the program may seem eclectic, because there is a contemporary work as well as a baroque one, and that corresponds to the inclination of young virtuoso instrumentalists who like to share their talents in all styles; what lies at the bottom of this perfectly romantic album is an astonishing depth, even overwhelming with beauty when needed, as well as brilliant technical mastery, in this case deliciously serving the theme of the album, "Incantation", a magic formula which leads to enchantment! A wager worthily won, with brilliance and no affectation. The desire for stylistic purity is perfectly represented in the choice of relationship with the original scores, first in a new and surprising version of the famous Danse Macabre by Saint-Saëns, but above all in the incredible Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch which opens the album, and is freed from any romantic expressive artifice. Virgil Boutellis-Taft easily expresses the deep intensity of Bruch as well as the spiritual and sensory agitation of Ernest Bloch's Nigun with his heroic Montagnana violin. The crypto-baroque piece on the program is the Chaconne in G minor by “Vitali”, made famous in the last century by Jascha Heifetz. This is the most pyrotechnic even explosive moment of the album, with the unstable tonality of the mysterious opus. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jac Van Steen is an excellent partner, whether it be in the excess of the Chaconne or in the Melancholic Serenade by Tchaikovsky, where the violinist and the orchestra have a perfectly harmonious, delicate, enchanting understanding, with the soloist showing all the finesse of his talent. Chausson's Poème, an iconic piece for violinists, is another great moment of dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra: Chausson's orientalized violin, with the dexterity and the mastery of Boutellis-Taft, completely captivates one’s attention! An absolutely enchanting album by a promising young violinist, to be listened to without moderation !
A poetically introspective programme of this type requires above all sensitive phrasing and a ravishing tone, qualities that French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft possesses to a remarkable degree. He coaxes a sound of incandescent purity out of his 1742 ‘Régis Pasquier’ Montagnana violin, which combines with his beguiling medium-fast vibrato to create a sound world that is well-nigh ideal for this particular programme. Big-toned players invariably tend to over-project Chausson’s Poème against a post-Wagnerian orchestral hothouse of molten chromaticisms. How refreshing, therefore, to hear Boutellis-Taft trace its achingly sensual lines with such intimacy and delicacy, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on ravishing form under Jac Van Steen responding with a magical, Delian restraint and suppleness. Boutellis-Taft’s jewelled sonority also works wonders in the heady incantations of Bruch’s Kol nidrei and Bloch’s Nigun, in which the solo line weaves seductively in and out of the orchestral textures, captured in glowing, atmospheric sound (London’s Henry Wood Hall) by Aparté engineers François Eckert, Hugo Scremin and Nicolas Bartholomée. Paul Bateman’s fine arrangement of Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre is kept choreographically ‘en pointe’ (something that is often ghoulishly overlooked) and Tchaikovsky’s brooding Sérénade mélancolique possesses a touching emotional continuity that resonates long in the memory after the music has faded gently away.
Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s playing throughout his debut orchestral album with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Incantation, is brilliant, effusive and gripping. He glides above the orchestra while maintaining a core to the tone and unfolding gorgeous intricate phrases. But it is the depth of his relationship with the material, unique combination of works and history behind why he programmed this CD the way that he did that make this album exceptional. History had silenced Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s family violin. Through Incantation, the violin sings again in an unfurling of seemingly contradictory emotions which are all centered around melancholy.
The concept of a national school does not mean much anymore nowadays, but it is nevertheless possible with Virgil Boutellis-Taft to hear a balance between the Franco-Belgian school, with its fine and elegant art and the Russian school with its solid and rich sound. A lot of emotional intensity but also sobriety in the emotions. Especially since he seems in perfect harmony with Jac van Steen and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. This is evident from Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei and further on in Ernest Bloch’s Nigun. La Danse macabre by Saint-Saëns ... highlights the violin even more, with virtuoso spells over which our instrumentalist triumphs brilliantly ..., and we close this recital that is far more than a simple carte de visite.
– CLASSICA, Jacques Bonnaire, May 2020 -
These works that are virtually contemporary charm us through their lyricism, and Virgil Boutellis-Taft lacks neither lyricism nor poetry. This is a beautiful recording, demanding and interiorized – a true favorite.
Virgil Boutellis-Taft unveils the incantatory powers of his violin. In a program where music reveals its magnetic and bewitching powers, this Aparté CD reveals the work of a virtuoso who transforms this hour of listening into an instant of pure reverie. The soloist and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jac Van Steen here offer an intellectually and musically accomplished album... We are not far distant from the Dance Macabre of Saint-Saëns, masterfully performed by Virgil Boutellis-Taft ... Music from an album where each piece responds to the previous one, and gives us profound moments of lyricism and unbridled imagination. Incantation is the album of a violinist who shapes the magic power of music, one who magnifies these fascinating works with his intense and stirring playing... The charming, dark raging or violent violin of Virgil Boutellis-Taft sings magic and bewitchment ... This brilliant violinist knows how to capture the chaotic, unreasonable and oblivious part that is in the depth of each of us. Here in itself is the superior power of music. But only such a performer of the greatest talent can carry a wild virtuoso score up to transfiguration.
... A journey that dares to impose reflection and a calm slowness in a world more concerned with movement and immediacy ... The entrance of the violin on its own is tenderly evocative. The development is imbued with a non-demonstrative lyricism that is truly enchanting, traversed by several bursts that the violin takes on with ease moving up to the high-pitched register with a lovely delicacy ... All along this path complementing for the most part the diapason of discretion, Virgil Boutellis-Taft shows clear and intense sound and technical skill in the service of great interiority. As of an extreme refinement, particularly in Chausson's work where all search for effect is banished in favor of the fluidity of the gesture.
It is incantation that is at the heart of this beautiful inspired recording, created by the talented violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Jac van Steen for the Aparté label … La Chaconne by the 17th and 18th century Italian violinist and composer Tomaso Antonio Vitali… that Virgil Boutellis-Taft sublimates by his interpretation which is both virtuoso and sensitive ... the enchanting violin of Virgil Boutellis-Taft (a Domenico Montagnana Venice 1742) summons feelings and Slavic themes in a touching dialogue with the orchestra brilliantly conducted by Jac van Steen.
….Contrasts which also testify to the intense musicality of the protagonist: the young French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft, who with his evocative playing opens up a real world of wonder making a strong impression. We are dealing with a soloist who does not flaunt, but puts intelligence and technique entirely at the service of music, thoughtfully assisted by Van Steen with the famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra ... The recording made at Henry Wood Hall of London meets all expectations.
M. Boutellis-Taft’s strongest convictions rest inside the pages of Judaic enclaves, including those found within Max Bruch and Ernest Bloch. “Searing and crying for outreach”, Kol Nidrei’s ardent Aramic religiosity is piercing and searing, likely the album’s apex composition. With an unforgettable and repetitive line, it’s one of the most convincing samples of Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s artistry. The same can be said about the Nigun by Ernest Bloch whereupon the music is guided by a startling and ominous opening. Ensconced in soft detailing, grace notes are also well tended to. Majestic and severe in their accommodation, it’s here the violinist relishes greater dynamics that wrap around the listener in Kabbalistic occupancy. Enthralling. Achingly beautiful swells abound as well inside Vitali’s Chaconne, holding the listener in a state of awe. The violinist shows how well-versed he is in patiently building the music into a state of anxiety and heartbreak: Full of vitality and stress, Virgil Boutellis-Taft seems to have the most unabashed freedom playing Tomaso Antonio Vitali. M. Boutellis-Taft never overstates the urgency of the text, and he comforts within a wall of cautious tentativeness.
The violin is undeniably a musical instrument favored by many music enthusiasts. Like an actor it can assume many different characters. It can cry, laugh, groan, cackle, dance, sing, be downright folky or highly lyrical. But in order to do all this it needs the assistance of a great musician. I've heard too many recordings of violinists who produce a sweet and silvery tone but nothing else, regardless of the type or style of music they're playing. The pieces gathered together on this new Aparté recording require the multi-faceted expressive temperament and technical skills of a true musician in order to be effective. Young French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft, whose been described by critics as an "outstanding violinist" is such a musician. With a harsh cackle he brings out the sardonic humour and impish wit of the Danse macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns extremely well. He pushes the intense passion at the end of Tomaso Antonio Vitali's Chaconne in G minor to its limits. He seamlessly alters the tone and color of his instrument to expose the deep melancholy within the Sérénade mélancolique by Tchaikovsky, a piece so aptly titled. The fervent stoicism inherent to Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei is very well captured in Boutellis-Taft's own arrangement for violin of a work originally scored for cello and orchestra. And in so far as technical skills are concerned, you need only listen to the very soft, high-pitched sustained trills at the end of the Poème pour violon et orchestre by Ernest Chausson to witness this musician's capabilities. The Aparté recording is warm and sets the violin slightly forward of the orchestra with excellent balance. Conductor Jac van Steen's support always follows the violinist's expressive direction and dynamic inflections.
The opening number, Kol Nidrei... has a beautifully lyrical character, and Boutellis-Taft invests it with much personality... The soloist creates a refreshing new look at an old favorite. And so it goes, with Boutellis-Taft endowing each work with much expressive distinction and beauty... Boutellis-Taft's playing is fluid, effortless, and eloquent, and the Royal Philharmonic's accompaniment sounds as rich as ever...My own favorite among the seven selections was the Poeme pour violin et orchestre by French composer Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). Boutellis-Taft brings out all the exotic color of the work without resorting to any hint of over sentimentalizing or romanticizing. It's quite lovely. Incantation lives up to its name, manifesting much magic, mystery, beauty, enchantment, and angelic intensity thanks to Boutellis-Taft's heartfelt execution. He is a performer to be reckoned with, and I expect we will be hearing more good things from him from here on out.
The French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft’s playing impresses with a great sound and a lot of expression, without any exaggeration. Thus, the intensity of his playing is never endangering the most thoughtful and intimate character of the pieces. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and its conductor Jac van Steen are in total harmony with the soloist and provide a tasteful accompaniment.
After a first CD of chamber music, French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft today celebrates his debut CD with full orchestra. What is particularly remarkable is the choice of works he is offering. While for their first CD, many violinists enjoy presenting works by great breathtaking virtuosos such as Paganini, Wieniawski or Sarasate, French violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft has chosen more intimate tones for his first CD with orchestra. He entitled this CD Incantation, which according to the Duden means "enchantment, conjuration by magic formulas" in German - and these are not verses or formulas that are recited as mantras, but Boutellis-Taft is enchanting with the music of Bruch, Vitali, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Bloch, Chausson and Umebayashi. Against a background of conjuration, Max Bruch's Kol Nidrei, Ernest Bloch's Nigun (from the Baal-Shem Triptych) or Ernest Chausson's Poem for Violin and Orchestra are rather meditative. This melancholy mood is rarely broken and turns into a fiery witch dance like in Camille Saint-Saëns's Macabre Dance. It is a powerful and yet very warm and velvety sound that Virgil Boutellis-Taft draws from his Montagnana violin. And when I initially mentioned the other usual virtuoso works - the pieces of music chosen here are no less virtuoso, but in a different way!
"From the outset, they [Virgil Boutellis-Taft and Guillaume Vincent] impose themselves by the reciprocity of their listening and the brilliance of their phrasing in The Crane whose roughness they feel perfectly and whose inexpressible emotion they recreate. They interpret with infinite sensitivity, virtuosity, perfect tempo and remarkable sonority this extraordinary program which represents a magnificent journey covering a century "between East and West".
"The violinist Virgil Boutellis-Taft combines impeccable sound with an impressive virtuosity flying over all the unbounded difficulties that are to be found in these scores .... To put it briefly, a highly successful trip between East and West! “.
"Virgil Boutellis-Taft is an interesting musical personality. Lovely sonority, beautiful imagination in the playing of timbres, and great precision, which in no way excludes a captivating expressivity, especially in the "oriental" pieces but also in Debussy.
– CLASSICA, Jacques Bonnaire, November 2016 -
"... intense, brilliant, sumptuous sonority over the whole range of the violin of Virgil Boutellis-Taft, very “into the string”, magnified by a very sure bow ... Let's listen to the "Intermède" of Debussy's Sonata for Violin and Piano: how evident! One has the impression that this amiable entertainment, elegant and refined, is born of itself, as if the two performers were each Debussy himself. There is not a single phrase that does not seem perfectly in its place, played exactly as it should be ... Let's listen again to the Janacek Sonata: everything is there, burning lyricism, but without superfluous pathetic effusion, the quasi-demiurgic power of inspiration without the impression of demonstration, accuracy without coldness. And yet, it is not an easy work to listen to, in its intense concentration ... We listen to the whole disc with feelings that range from simple pleasure to enthusiasm - a disc that reaches, in its best moments, an incandescent intensity ".
"...Proof that with a bow you can get thrills from Johann Sebastian Bach."
"Boutellis-Taft interprets [Bloch] with forceful vigor... impressive sound effects... In Janacek's Sonata... he delights the audience with his dexterity, spirit, and great sensitivity... In the Debussy Sonata...the violin is insolent and exotic... a finely nuanced playing, with bright flashes of humor and virtuosity... In the Poem by Chausson ... Virgil Boutellis-Taft offers a spectacular performance ... an exquisite sensitivity in the melancholic passages and a dazzling brilliance during the moments of passionate intensity... In Bartok [he] is inflamed; his approach is... dramatic, languorous and spicy all at once... the musicians set themselves ablaze, they also inflame the public..."
"...he played with great brio - ease of the bow, impeccable left hand and such musical intelligence ... we can only praise, in addition to the professionalism of the violinist, his fabulous energy, which held us spellbound from the beginning to the end..."
– ResMusica, Héloïse B. Oléari, Decembre 2013 -
« a captivated and delighted audience, brilliant and celestial music performed by a violinist of fiery temperament, intense bow, shimmering colors, playing of admirable transparency, radiant with passion, exceptional talents. Slavic lyricism has truly been honored!»
– L'Alsace, 14 octobre, 2013 -
"words fail me...such control, sensitivity, nuances!... it was exceptional...the virtuosity and the generosity...There was also the body choreography, the bow hairs soared, even the score flew from its stand, such the strength, the commitment, the almost savage bowing and the expressivity of the young violinist possessed the work of Enesco.
A strange impression, that of experiencing a rare moment with Virgil Boutellis-Taft, already accustomed to excellence. "
– Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace, by J.-M.Z., October 2013 -
«... musical maturity... intelligence... undeniable virtuosity... We particularly admired the round warm sound of Virgil Boutellis-Taft..."
– ResMusica, September 2013 -
"Six Romanian dances Sz 56 by Béla Bartók are particularly acrobatic for the violin and Boutellis-Taft employs his instrument impressively, with no difficulty in the harmonics and a virile but discreet sautillé. His 1742 Montagnana produced a brilliant and particularly rounded sound.
In the oriental suaveness of the third dance as well as the vivacity and brilliance of the last three...The duo is simply awesome."
– CLASSIQUENEWS, August 2013 -
"... Virgil played beautifully... He brought a dedicated delicacy to the music that blended perfectly with the orchestra under Maestro Neal Gittleman...Virgil's graceful interpretation resonated marvelously... his cadenza was a tour de force."
– The Oakwood Register, November 2012 -
«...the excellent Virgil Boutellis on the violin, vigorous, very modern.»
– Théâtre du Blog, Paris, April 2012 -
" engaging personality... sweet sound... sophisticated musical sense... facile technique... an extraordinarily talented young artist."
– Peter Stafford Wilson, Music Director, Springfield Symphony Orchestra, January 2012 -
«...An unrivaled violinist...»
– Le Canard enchaîné, July 2011 -
«... The sound of a violin rises and weeps, remarkable Virgil Boutellis...»
– Théâtral- magazine, July 2011 -
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