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Classical - Released January 1, 2002 | Alpha

Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique - Recommandé par Répertoire
Helene Schmitt is hot stuff. In this disc of violin sonatas by the nearly unknown Ignazio Albertini, the contemporary of Biber and Schmelzer comes passionately alive under her supple bow and sensitive fingers. In Schmitt's performances, the wildly virtuosic and extravagantly emotional music of Albertini sounds like it could only have been composed by a man stabbed to death in obscure circumstances. There's poise and grace in Schmitt's performances, as well elevated lyricism. But most of all there's passion: a passionate intensity of line, a passionate concentration of tone, a passionate brilliance of color, a passionate love of this fiercely expressive and violently beautiful music. Schmitt's trio of continuo players are sympathetic players and each gets his/her own sweet solo Prelude or Toccatina interspersed with Schmitt's Sonatas. Alpha's sound is tactile in its realism and its tiny but stunning reproduction of Guido Cagnacci's The Death of Cleopatra is a visual treat. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 2005 | Alpha

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique
This wild recording, the first volume of two covering all the Bach sonatas and partitas for solo violin, may well polarize listeners into attitudes of love and hate. French violinist Hélène Schmitt delivers readings of the first sonata and the first two partitas that are nowhere near the mainstream for these celebrated works, which are generally regarded as icons of Bach's intellectual accomplishment and have been subjected to all kinds of numerological analysis. Violinists have performed them on modern instruments and on Baroque violins like Schmitt's, but whatever the instrument, the works have usually been accorded weighty, often severe reverence -- an attitude reinforced by their fearsome technical difficulty. Schmitt goes in the opposite direction, with rhythmically free, individualistic interpretations that demolish the symmetries many have found in these works but link them to the fantasy-like solo violin works written by Bach's predecessors. Bach probably did not know the works of Biber, but those who enjoy that Austrian composer's extreme language may well find Schmitt's reading of interest. But despite her nationality there's something decidedly un-French about Schmitt's interpretations. Her treatments of the dance movements in the partitas are so idiosyncratic that the basic rhythms are lost. Sample track 8, the Sarabande movement of the Partita for solo violin No. 1, BWV 1002, to hear the distance between Schmitt's sarabande and the dance's stately origins. It's almost as though, just as modern-instrument performers are starting to show the influence of historically oriented performers, Schmitt is using a Baroque violin to render a version of the hyper-subjective Bach performances of the old Romantic schools. The radical new French performances of Bach, Vivaldi, and other Baroque standards are generally exciting, and Alpha's presentation is as compelling as usual; the Hans Holbein portrait on the cover, with its accompanying art-historical essay, offers a perfect visual analogue to Bach's pieces in its sparse single lines that imply multitudes of structural details. Yet Schmitt's performance, even as it certainly demands attention, is certainly not for everyone. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 2003 | Alpha

Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique - 10 de Classica-Répertoire
Will the wholesale rediscovery of Baroque music eventually slow down? Surely, but it's hard to see the endpoint right now. This disc by French Baroque violinist Hélène Schmitt offers music by the virtually forgotten Giovanni Stefano Carbonelli, a student of Corelli who arrived in England in 1719. His music is clearly influenced by the virtuoso styles of his teacher but takes them a step in the direction of the lighter, more seductive mood of the galant era. The 1713 painting by Sebastiano Ricci that is examined in the booklet is an exact counterpart for the music recorded here, and this series on France's Alpha label is highly recommended to art lovers -- they offer a sort of instant crash course in art history and in the relationships among the arts in French culture. There are six sonatas for violin and continuo, all but one in four movements (one of the four-movement pieces has an interpolated guitar finale by another composer), generally following the Corellian church sonata model of abstract fast and slow movements rather than dances. The performances here are magical. Schmitt, whose pictures in the booklet have the same soft beauty as the figures in the painting under discussion in the notes, is a superb young Baroque violinist, improvising ornaments here with an appropriately light touch. The continuo group has a cello, a guitar, and a harpsichord (or organ) -- it's unusually large, but it fits this music beautifully; the addition of the guitar gives a languid feel that rounds off the edges and catches the peculiar flavor of Carbonelli's music, fancy, relaxed, and sweet. The close-up miking picks up a good deal of instrumental noise -- listen to the music in close quarters or on headphones, and you'll find it distracting. © TiVo

Classical - Released January 1, 2006 | Alpha

Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 4 étoiles du Monde de la Musique
Say what you will about scanty biographical material and uncertain personal links, it nevertheless seems entirely probable that Bach wrote at least some of his sonatas and partitas for violin solo after his first wife's death in 1720. In this second volume of Hélène Schmitt recordings of the works, her performance of the monumental A minor Sonata No. 2 is so passionate, so rhapsodic, and so expressive that the spirit of loss and grief fills the music like inconsolable tears. But, of course, while Schmitt is just as passionate, rhapsodic, and expressive in the joyous E major Partita and in the radiant C major Sonata, her playing makes it hard to credit that Bach wrote those works after his first wife's death. Schmitt performs on a period violin, and while she respects the historical traditions, she does so with the rhythmic and interpretive freedom of a romantic virtuoso, making her performances wilder and freer than any other period violinist. While not for the faint of heart, those who respond well to a challenge will find much to enjoy in Schmitt's performances, especially as captured in Alpha's "all but real" digital sound. © TiVo