American Record Guide: July/August 2014 – Pages 186-7

Capriccio/FOSS: Capriccio; DVORAK: Romance; STRAVINSKY: Suite Italienne; SCHUMANN: Violin Sonata 1; MENDELSSOHN: 2 Songs Without Words


Helena Baillie, violin/viola, Tanya Gabrielian, piano

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Right from the opening flourish you know that this will be a special recital. Lukas Foss’s Capriccio makes a perfect opening work with its wide dynamic range, variety of bowing and plucking and interplay between the viola and piano. Written in 1948 for cello and piano, it was premiered by Piatigorsky and the composer, and is a wonderfully American work with a strong influence of Copland. Baillie offers a premier recording of her version for viola and piano which works so well I suspect it could become as widely performed as the cello version.

The early Dvorak Romance is a beautiful, extended work that shows off Baillie’s gorgeous singing tone. The Stravinsky Suite is probably my favorite work on this disc. It is taken from the ballet Pucinella and is a perfect example of the composer’s neoclassical style. Stravinsky wrote this version of the Suite in collaboration with Samuel Dushkin. Robert Schumann’s big Violin and Piano Sonata in A minor is his first in that key (Op. 105), and was written in less than one week in September of 1851. On a symphonic scale, it demands and receives the most from both Baillie and Gabrielian, both individually and collaboratively. This is the kind of performance that compares favorably with Kremer and Argerich (DG 437092, Mar/Apr 1994). The disc closes with a couple of encores: Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words Op. 19:1 and 62:1, the first arranged by Hermann & Baillie and the second by Kreisler. The recital that began with a flourish, now closes simply, fading into nothingness.

This young professional duo delivers an exceptionally enjoyable debut recital. From their on-line schedules I see many audiences enjoyed their performances all through New England last year. I hope this disc brings them to an even wider audience and allows them to continue a very promising partnership.



CD COVER June 5Capriccio. Foss: Capriccio. Dvořák: Romance op.11. Stravinsky: Suite italienne (arr. Dushkin/Silverthorne). Schumann: Violin Sonata in A minor op.105. Mendelssohn: Songs without words op.19 no.1 (arr. Hermann/Baillie) & op.62 no.1 (arr. Kreisler)

Confident, authoritative playing on both violin and viola

Friday, 13 June 2014

Helena Baillie (violin/viola) Tanya Gabrielian (piano)

Foss, Dvořák, Stravinsky, Schumann, Mendelssohn

That controversial critic Hans Keller once proclaimed viola playing a ‘phoney profession’, his point being that any violinist would be able to do it after a few hours’ practice. Should anyone care to revive his theory today, the present CD would be an argument in its favour: Helena Baillie alternates between the instruments – a 2012 violin by Collin Gallahue ‘in association with the workshop of Samuel Zygmuntowicz’ and a 2009 viola by Zygmuntowicz himself – sounding perfectly at home in both.

Foss’s Capriccio (a cello piece written for Piatigorsky) is a rousingly tuneful piece of mid-20th-century Americana that sounds very good on the viola. Stravinsky’s Suite italienne is played in Paul Silverthorne’s reworking for viola of Samuel Dushkin’s violin version, and it works beautifully, Baillie getting its barbed wit just right. Mendelssohn’s two encores are also presented in violin arrangements – by Friedrich Hermann and Fritz Kreisler – but played one on each instrument, the viola version needing no adaptation (I would have preferred Lionel Tertis’s arrangement of op.19 no.1, with its idiosyncratic double-stopping).

Back on the violin, Baillie gives distinctly lyrical readings of Dvořák’s Romance and Schumann’s First Sonata in close collaboration with pianist Tanya Gabrielian. Schumann’s ‘with passionate expression’ could have summoned a more fiery response, but theirs is a valid alternative. The recording quality is agreeably lifelike, and the CD leaves the music to speak for itself (which is another way of saying that there are no booklet notes of any kind whatsoever).

Carlos María Solare


April 26, 2014

The violinist Helena Baillie is the beneficiary of an unusual new lending model intended to insulate musicians from patrons and institutions alike. Read more here.

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November, 2010

“The Strad” Click here to read the article.

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July, 2008

Click here to read a concert review from The Strad.

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