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Sassy, soulful violin; Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg records with ensemble

08.09.09
Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
The News & Observer

By Roy C. Dicks 

Anyone who's seen violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg knows the electric intensity she communicates. For her first recording with the New Century Chamber Orchestra, you don't need visuals for her talents to mesmerize, and the CD's bright, up-close acoustic only adds to the sense of "being there."

The central work is Astor Piazzolla's "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires," tango pieces originally composed for his quintet. There have been numerous orchestrations, but these by Leonid Desyatnikov have a rich, satisfying unity, played here with vivid passion and rhythmic precision.

Salerno-Sonnenberg's solos are by turns sensuous, sassy, shimmering and soulful, grabbing one's attention as few performers can. For an encore, she offers a lazily lush "Bess, You Is My Woman Now."

The violinist turns concertmaster for Bartók's "Romanian Folk Dances," its short sections full of colorful character, and for "Impressions," commissioned from Clarice Assad. This work shows off the orchestra well, particularly in the rapid passages.

The first movement's theme and variations cleverly spotlight each string category, and the fourth's perpetual motion has hypnotic power. The Brazilian dance and slow waltz movements have rather glib pop melodies, but overall this is a fine new work.