by Hannah Murray Oct. 31, 2018
The Official Info
From Bis Records:
"Elena Urioste and Tom Poster recently released a new album titled “Estrellita.” It is a collection of violin classics including compositions, transcriptions, and arrangements of music by some of the greatest, and most beloved violinists of the past. In their liner notes for this string of estrellitas (‘small stars’), Elena Urioste and Tom Poster admit to a shared love for ‘an old-world, golden sound and for melodies that tug at the heartstrings.' This has resulted in a deeply personal collection of miniatures full of winks, sighs, and tears aimed at transporting the listener to bygone eras of fireside salon concerts. With a few exceptions, including Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit and Salut d’amour, the pieces are arrangements by the great violinists of that bygone, golden age: Auer, Kreisler, Zimbalist, Heifetz … while the originals they are based upon range from Gluck’s Melodie from Orpheus and Euridice and Liszt’s Consolation No. 3 to Beau Soir by Debussy and Estrellita by Manuel Ponce. In a closing section, Elena Urioste and Tom Poster also pay their respects to the Great American Songbook, with new arrangements, signed Tom Poster, of Moon River, When I Fall in Love and Over the Rainbow."
When I read this I thought "cute!" and when I looked at the tracklist, consisting of 19 short pieces for violin and piano, I found it charming. It was not, at first glance, an album I was itching to purchase. Admittedly, my general enthusiasm for listening to transcriptions of music for violin by violinists is pretty low. As a consumer of music, I typically gravitate towards more contemporary chamber music and solo works. When scrolling through any music streaming service, I am unlikely to select standard violin repertoire and often use my curiosity to guide my listening selections. But I've been listening to this album consistently for over a week now and I am unashamed to say that I am entirely wrong about what kind of classical music I like. This was like 19 love songs to the violin and it charmed me to the moon and back.
What I discovered in my hours of listening to this album is that this is indeed a deeply personal recording. Urioste’s playing is versatile, and nuanced and brings to life much of the lyricism of the vocal transcriptions while also flaunting her virtuosity. Her tone is rich and warm, yet very clear and the interplay between piano and violin reeks of a shared joy and devotion to each track. The collaborative effort to breathe warmth and nostalgia into each miniature is impressive particularly in its subtlety, bringing out sonorities and harmonies that bring equal emphasis to the piano, and violin in a way that is so delicate and refined it might just be a figment of my imagination. You can also hear Urioste breathing on some of the tracks, which is something I absolutely adore in recordings. It connects the listener to a real, living and breathing performer who is breathing life into the music you are listening to and that is incredibly special, particularly in an era where you can -and people often do- edit "the human" out of recordings.
What I love about the violin (and true confessions: I am a violinist) is the versatility of the instrument. It is capable of mimicking the voice in a way that shamelessly tugs at the heartstrings. The violin can also create musical effects and perform passagework full of flair and fire and can dress up in all types of musical styles from operatic arias, to show tunes, love songs, character pieces, American classics, Art Songs, Hebrew melodies and so much more. This album explores the violin's entire range of feeling, costumes, and capability in an intimate setting. It is equal parts beautiful and impressive and made me love the violin in a way that I thought had been beaten and worn out of me through the grind of this profession. It is vulnerable, lush, soaring, intimate, impressive, expressive, and intoxicating. NYC, a buyer on Amazon says, “An unabashedly lush, romantic, stunning collection of jewels, performed with intimacy and art. If you listen to this with a glass of wine or two, you may find yourself in tears,” and that is true. I listened to it regularly in rush hour traffic in L.A. and still felt some non-road rage feelings.
I am particularly fond of track six on this album, which is Achron’s Hebrew Melody. Every time I hear this track I want to yell “yes!” in the car, office, coffeeshop or wherever. It has the perfect mix of attitude and melancholia. I was unfamiliar with “Mother and Child” from Suite for Violin and Pianoby William Grant Still, whom I always think warrants more attention and acclaim than he is ever given, and I am excited to learn this piece for myself now. It fits beautifully on this recording and bridges the gap between the classic selections and Tom Poster's new transcriptions of American Songs. Poster’s transcription of Moon River for two violins and piano (played by Poster, Urioste and guest violinist Magnus Johnston) is so rose-colored and overwhelms me with that feeling you get when you want to cry and smile at the same time and transports me to the first time I saw Breakfast at Tiffany's. The two violin parts sound just like two people singing, their inflection is only missing the syllables of spoken words; it is uncanny and affecting.
I have no scale by which I rate recordings or compositions, but this one rings true to the original description. It tugs at your heartstrings and transports you to a bygone era. I recommend this for all music lovers. It will appeal to lovers of classical music, classic American music, violin music, and intimate dinner soundtracks. It will bring the cozy feelings and flavors of the Autumn season to your ears.
To find out more about Elena Urioste, her upcoming concerts, and her many other endeavors (worthy of an entirely different article), visit https://www.elenaurioste.com