Classical Collection Part 1 / Vanessa Mae 3-cd Set

Album cover art for upc 724356745629
Label: EMI
Catalog: 67456M
Format: CD

Now the dust has settled somewhat around the phenomenon that is Vanessa-Mae, this three-CD re-release of recordings she made in the early 1990s as a young teenager reminds us what all the fuss was about in the first place. The discs are divided into Russian, Viennese and virtuoso albums, and the first cannily begins with the Kabalevsky Concerto, which was written to appease Stalinist criticism in 1948. It's a frothy, energetic and tuneful piece and irresistibly shows off all the technical glitter and steely flash of the young Vanessa-Mae's playing. Fortunately, however, the music isn't all froth--the Viennese album includes her recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, and though she doesn't bring the insights of age and experience to the piece, her playing radiates an astonishing innocence. It's the odd, not-quite innocence of the precociously talented, of course, but the result is still charming. Her phrasing is clear and direct, her tone joyously sweet, and you can feel the pleasure she has in playing the work. Unfortunately the Tchaikovsky Concerto needs a deeper understanding of passion and doesn't work so well, but the delicious lollipops on the virtuoso album more than make up for it. --Warwick Thompson