THE STRAD, Julian Haylock

June 2020

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.