Violinist Takako Nishizaki is perhaps the most frequently recorded concert violinist of the digital era. She was also the first violinist to learn by way of the Suzuki method; her father, Shinji Nishizaki, worked with Shinichi Suzuki in developing the method, and Takako Nishizaki took instruction from both teachers. She made her debut at the age of 9, and further studied with Broadus Erle, starting in Japan and later at Yale University. Nishizaki finished her violin studies at Juilliard under Joseph Fuchs and in 1967 won second prize in the Leventritt International competition behind Pinchas Zukerman. One would surmise that with her talent and beauty that American record companies would be getting in each other's way to obtain Nishizaki's recording contract. But they weren't, and by 1974 Nishizaki settled in Hong Kong, where she established a career as the pre-eminent violin virtuoso on the Chinese concert circuit. This was no small feat, as in China they take the violin seriously and its literature is central to the entire establishment of Chinese classical music. Along the way Nishizaki met and married German businessman Klaus Heymann, founder of HNH International, the corporate parent to the popular classical label Naxos. Heymann sponsored Nishizaki in an extensive series of recordings of Chinese classical music on his Marco Polo label. Some of these recordings sold into the millions of copies in China, providing the nest egg that launched the Naxos label in the late 1980s. With Naxos, Nishizaki has recorded much of the standard Western violin literature, as well, but has made a special mission of recording key violin literature that is known in concert and in the classroom, but seldom represented on records. The most celebrated example of this tendency is her recordings of the concertos of Chevalier de St-Georges, but it also includes her interpretations of Charles August de Bériot, Louis Spohr, and Joseph Joachim. All of Nishizaki's recordings are notable for her generous, singing tone; flexible rhythmic sensibility; her sense of architectural symmetry in regard to whole movements; her ability to excite; and the sheer beauty of Nishizaki's sound.
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Chamber Music - Released February 21, 2006 | Naxos
Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki (the daughter of the cofounder of the Suzuki Method, we learn) gets top billing on this disc, part of a complete series of Mozart's sonatas for violin and piano. But for much of the disc, American pianist Benjamin Loeb actually has more to do. The Sonata No. 16 for violin and piano, K. 547, is subtitled "a little piano sonata for beginners, with a violin." Written around the same time as the Piano Sonata in C major, K. 545, that most young pianists learn, this work lacks the unity of its more famous counterpart. By this point in his career, Mozart was writing violin-and-piano sonatas in which the two instruments played equal roles, but the act of writing a student work seems to have made the composer think in the old-fashioned terms of a piano sonata with optional violin. The K. 547 sonata and the 12 Variations in G major on the French song "La bergère Célimène," K. 359 are rarely heard, and it's useful for violinists to have them on hand. But the rather dry performance by Nishizaki and Loeb doesn't catch their easy charm. On the other hand, the pair delivers a very strong performance of the one real masterwork on the disc, the concluding Sonata No. 15 in A major, K. 526.. Performing on conventional instruments, they sound somewhat like the classic duo of Henryk Szerying and Ingrid Haebler, seeking smoothness and balance in Mozart over sentimental effect. In the dense, difficult A major sonata, their approach is well considered and nicely executed. This would be an odd choice for a single disc of Mozart violin-and-piano sonatas, but as part of a series it scores well with the major work on the program. © TiVo