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 AVAILABLE 9/1/2023
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“This release marks a new legacy. It is like a monument in sound to the fading culture of the art of the violin and music-making...Kaler has mastered the art of violin playing...phrasings and vibrato are role models of excellent taste. His violin sings from the bottom of its heart. Every single measure has a conception, he devises the bow speed with the precision of a surgeon, and the combination of his mastery and fresh approach is a cause for admiration...Rasa Vitkauskaite plays in a sensitive, virtuoso style... She shifts roles between soloist and chamber music partner with elegance and is always at the right time and place. She feels the music and the style in a natural and genuine way. Her performance of the Capriccio brilliant is marvelous... The Budapest Ferenc Erkel Chamber Orchestra sounds homogenic, responsive, and well balanced. Maestro Jonathan Cohler seems to have a clear vision and the ability to bring that vision to a point throughout the entire album. It is doubtless a success!”
   —Hana Gubenko, Fanfare

“A real strand in the success of this performance is that both soloist and conductor are as one in their vision: both, too, understand Mendelssohn both familiar and unfamiliar to an uncommon degree. It is usual to concentrate on the soloist in the Mendelssohn E-Minor, but here it is a real joint effort. The soloist, Ilya Kaler, has a rock-solid technique coupled with a real affinity for Mendelssohn’s music; Cohler is his ideal partner... This is refreshing, illuminating Mendelssohn, nowhere more so than in the first movement cadenza: imaginative, compelling. The orchestral response is perfectly judged by Cohler, fiery and yet never overloaded... an E-Minor Concerto of the very highest rank...[in the Double Concerto] Kaler and Vitkauskaite are a superb match, both immensely sensitive... Vitkauskaite’s legerdemain is glorious; dialogs between violin and piano sparkle, and Cohler ensures the orchestral contributions make their mark... Finally, the Capriccio brillant... Here, Vitkauskaite is terrific, her easy upward arpeggios a delight, her sense of drama perfectly aligned to Mendelssohn’s (and seconded by Cohler and his forces). Eleven minutes of pure joy... Jonathan Cohler’s own notes are voluminous, detailed, and learned. It is impossible not to learn from them, and they crown a splendid release... A superb disc.”
★★ - “A superb disc: Come for the E-Minor; stay for the rest. You won't be disappointed!”
   —Colin Clarke, Fanfare

“Rasa Vitkauskaite, who has been lavishly praised for her sophisticated and virtuosic playing by a number of critics, myself included, turns in brilliant performances in the Double Concerto and the Capriccio Brilliant, with her frequent collaborator Jonathan Cohler (who is also a wonderful clarinetist) at the podium, leading a delightfully nimble Hungarian chamber orchestra. And not least, as has also been noted by other writers here, the production values of the Ongaku label are stellar, with informative notes and very fine recorded sound... ”
   —Peter Burwasser, Fanfare

“Kaler’s performance approaches, and perhaps even achieves, the ideal. Kaler’s technique is impeccable throughout... impeccable clarity and momentum that is electrifying... gorgeous tone, embodying a silvery quality that reminds me of such great sopranos as Gundula Janowitz and Lucia Popp, as well as sensitive phrasing that would do those vocalists proud... exquisite marriage of Classical-era refinement and proportion with the heartfelt expression, passion, and virtuosity... Conductor Jonathan Cohler (who is also a superb clarinetist) is a sympathetic collaborator, at one with Kaler’s vision... this is a tautly-executed performance that uniformly achieves a sense of proportion, momentum, and lyricism. Overall, this is an exceptional version of an oft-recorded concerto... Vitkauskaite also shines in the concluding Capriccio Brillant in b (1832), another virtuoso work Mendelssohn composed for his own performance. In both the Double Concerto and Capriccio Brillant, Jonathan Cohler once again provides sensitive, expert support for his soloists.”
   —Ken Meltzer, Fanfare

“Kaler’s latest album (his third for Ongaku), is not only a showcase of his utter command at the helm of
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, but his skillful and inventive collaboration with conductor Jonathan Cohler and pianist Rasa Vitkauskaite in their joint performance of Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto... a generous celebration of Mendelssohn’s genius... [Mendelssohn] could hardly have imagined a better, or more complete performance, than this particular recording... From the almost simmering opening lines of the orchestra, Cohler draws out a variety of sonic textures from the Allegro, percolating theorchestra... In the second movement, Andante, Cohler seems to ask the orchestra for such tender calm that by the time the soloists enter, the listener is prepared for the insular feel of a duet, a kind of pearl at the center of this orchestra-shaped shell... That calm and contemplative middle movement is of course eclipsed by the brilliant third movement, Allegro molto... Vitkauskaite and Kaler play together with such seamless syncopation that it is breathtaking. I particularly love how Kaler matches Vitkauskaite’s finely detailed fingerwork with his equally fine staccato bow strokes in the high registers of his instrument. [in the Violin Concerto] Kaler is energetic, quite possibly faultless, and inexhaustibly consistent in his tone and technique... Rasa Vitkauskaite also performs Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brillant, which concludes the album. Here, as earlier, Vitkauskaite demonstrates not only her incredibly detailed and refined dexterity at the fingerboard, but her command of the piece at the helm of the orchestra... An incredible tribute to Mendelssohn from start to finish.”
   —Jacqueline Kharouf, Fanfare

“Kaler’s Mendelssohn is 100-percent on point. I especially like his way with the first-movement cadenza, which is a little different than the way it’s often played. Kaler sees it as integral to the movement, as if it’s strictly notated and written into the score. Thus, he doesn’t take liberties with it by stretching the rests or fussing with the tempo. As a result, the rejoining of the orchestra with the violin’s rocking arpeggios is absolutely seamless and natural sounding. No pickup or tempo adjustment is necessary.”
★★ - Another Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, but one that dares to be a bit different.
   —Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

“Kaler displays a complete virtuoso arsenal: rhythmic vitality, warmth of tone and sentiment.”
   —Los Angeles Times

“Vitkauskaite has established an enviable reputation as an intelligent performer who injects insight into every note and whose phrasing is nigh on perfect… breathtakingly beautiful and it is all you can do not to hear it again immediately… she can voice every emotion and every state inferred from gentle lullaby-like phrasing to volcanic outbursts… extremely satisfying and thrillingly executed...”
   —MusicWeb International

“artistry of poetic and observant sensitivity…a musician with a keen ear for colour and structure…vital glowing performances…illuminating and nuanced…Vitkauskaite finds a fine balance between lyricism and buoyancy, applying judicious flexibility to lines while maintaining narrative cohesion.”

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