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Classical

Joseph Achron

Music for Violin and Piano

Played by Michael Ludwig and Alison d’Amato

[Naxos]

3.5 stars

To hear this rather wonderful new disc by the soon-departing concertmaster of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is, sadly, to understand fully why it was announced in April that he would be leaving the BPO.

If a solo career is calling Ludwig, you would have to wish him nothing but luck listening to this disc – as well as offering him every bit of your understanding. He does indeed have an awful lot to offer as a solo performer.

Joseph Achron was a Lithuanian/Polish/Russian violinist who, as a composer, fell early on under the spell of Jewish music and composed some bewitching music in its thrall. There’s even some (unavoidable) speculation that the inspiration of Marc Chagall’s famous painting of the fiddler on the roof was Achron.

Ludwig is superb playing Achron’s “Hebrew Melody” from 1911, “Hebrew Dance” from 1912, “Hebrew Lullaby” from 1912 and “Dance Improvisation on a Hebrew Folk Theme” from 1914. That isn’t all Achron could do, of course. But Achron – a friend of Arnold Schoenberg’s – was blacklisted by the Nazis for obvious reasons and after his death at 57 in 1943, suffered a kind of de facto blacklisting by Jewish audiences more interested in the music assimilation.

That he has been revived recently is evinced by the vibrant performances of his music by Ludwig and pianist Alison d’Amato. If there’s more robustness of tone preferable in some of this music, it’s probably nothing that couldn’t be solved by Ludwig being able to play the exceptional instrument he deserves.

– Jeff Simon