María Dueñas | Beethoven and Beyond Review
by Illiam Sebitz
Violinist María Dueñas’s debut album Beethoven and Beyond is capturing the attention of the classical music world. But, for me, there are two standout performances that precisely shine a light on her meticulous musicianship – the breathtaking renditions of Ysaÿe’s Berceuse, Op. 20, and Saint-Saëns’ Havanaise, Op. 83. These compositions, though contrasting in their own right, showcase shared properties of eloquence, melodic charm, and their rich connection to the Romantic tradition.
Dueñas’s vibrato is integral to her musical arsenal; though easily overlooked, her vibrato adds a warm, expressive dimension to these pieces. For example, her vibrato imparts an exquisite lullaby-like quality in Ysaÿe’s Berceuse, a piece brimming with emotional intensity. This creates a luscious sound, perfectly fitting the soothing character of the composition. Similarly, in the Havanaise, her vibrant, sensuous vibrato breathes life into Saint-Saëns’ picturesque melody, enveloping listeners in an aura of passionate Cuban dance.
Her right hand, tasked with the fundamental role of bowing, exhibits a smoothness that contributes immensely to the overall tonal quality of her performances. In the Ysaÿe, her seamless bowing paints the tranquil, dreamy ambiance inherent to a berceuse, the long sweeping bows producing an air of serene elegance. In contrast, during the vigorous passages of the Saint-Saëns, her bowing remains unwaveringly smooth, adeptly handling the vivacious dance rhythms without sacrificing the lyrical essence of the theme.
Perhaps the most subtle yet significant aspect of Dueñas’s technique is her left-hand shifts. During the intricate melodic climbs in Ysaÿe’s Berceuse, her shifts are executed flawlessly, ensuring a continuous, undisturbed melodic flow. This impeccable precision is equally evident in the Saint-Saëns, where rapid shifts occur amidst lively dance passages. Her command over these transitions facilitates an effortless navigation through the technical complexities, rendering the virtuosic sections as fluid and expressive as the rest.
Guided by conductor Manfred Honeck, Dueñas’s interpretations of these romantic pieces, imbued with her own distinctive artistry, present a fascinating dialogue between the compositions. Her adept use of vibrato, the seamless flow of her right hand, and the precision of her left-hand shifts provide listeners with a rewarding and emotionally resonant experience, reminding us of the profound beauty embedded within the works of these legendary composers. Beethoven and Beyond is a must-have.
Beethoven and Beyond
Release Date: May 5, 2023
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
About the author
Born and raised in a picturesque European village, my fondness for music began during my formative years, when the charismatic tones of the recorder first filled the halls of my primary school. This early fascination escalated into my lifelong pursuit of embracing the melodious charm of the flute; I have even spent time refining my skills at a music conservatoire. As a seasoned music connoisseur, I find myself captivated by the multifaceted world of music. I enjoy writing music reviews to better enable me to explore genres as diverse as world, rock, jazz, classical, folk, and film music, each offering a unique auditory journey that enriches my life and intellect.
In my spare moments, you'll likely find me meticulously crafting my latest woodworking project, sharpening my skills with flute etudes, or inventing tales of fantasy through the art of creative writing. My eclectic interests and expertise harmonize to create a symphony of passion and curiosity that resonates within every aspect of my life as a music enthusiast.