Not only does the sound of the violin resemble the human voice, but these instruments also have another characteristic in common with humans: they do not like remaining silent and being locked up. Yet that is the fate of many Stradivarius violins: too expensive for many musicians, they end up in the hands of wealthy investors who store the precious instruments in a vault for decades.
Janine Jansen had the opportunity to play twelve rare Stradivarius violins on her latest album. Besides the lockdown, this was thanks to a helpful London violin dealer who also made a documentary about this ambitious project. Jansen says she can distinguish the instruments well from each other, but that is not possible for mere mortals.
What remains is the conclusion that this new album, which the public had to wait six years for, is wonderful. Despite the twelve different instruments, the fifteen pieces Jansen selected form a unity. A Stradivarius may have a soul, but no one is able to do justice to that soul in as many colours as Janine Jansen. The British-Italian conductor and pianist Antonio Pappano is Jansen’s dream accompanist on the grand piano. This is chamber music at its best. The duo knows how to make the most of the richness of sound in the Romantic era on top instruments that have been recorded with the most inventive technical possibilities of today.
The album opens turbulently with Manuel De Falla’s ‘Danse espagnole’ in an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler. Then they play a chillingly beautiful performance of ‘Romance Op. 22/1’ by Clara Schumann and a compelling violin version of the slow movement of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Cello Sonata.
Jansen and Pappano conclude light-heartedly with a melancholic version of ‘Yesterdays’, from the musical Roberta. While playing, Jansen noticed that the violins sounded better and better thanks to her human warmth. It’s a sad thought that some of these instruments are now under lock and key with their rich owners in Hong Kong or Dubai.