Classical reviews: February 29

Sarasate. Julia Fischer (violin), Milana Chernyavska (piano.) Decca CD

German violinist Fischer plays 13 scintillating virtuoso pieces by Pablo de Sarasate (1844-1908), the Spanish composer well thought of by other composers such as Saint-Saens, and also one of the first violinists to leave acoustic recordings.

One of them was of Zigeunerweisen in 1904, the standout track here. Also well known is Habanera, based, like most of the works, on Spanish dances. The programme is all dazzling showpieces written to display violinists' technical brilliance, and ideal encore fare.

Fischer copes throughout with consummate ease. She wants to restore Sarasate's gems to the concert platform for serious consideration. As she says, they are wonderful miniatures (less than 8min) expressing a specific mood without complexity. But demanding joyful responses of ''Wow''.

Highlights: Caprice Basque and Serenata Andaluza, both new to my ears.

Poulenc: Stabat Mater, etc. Patricia Petibon (soprano). Orchestre de Paris. Deutsche Grammophon CD

It is 50 years since the death of French composer Francis Poulenc, and this CD presents three of his finest choral works, Stabat Mater and Gloria, as well as a first recording of Litanies a la Vierge noire (Litanies to the black Madonna) written for a women's choir and orchestra in grief-stricken response to another composer's death.

Petibon is soloist in the other two works and impresses with her exquisite voice well able to float through all challenges. Enjoy particularly her exquisite, crystal-clear top notes in ''Domine Deus, Agnus Dei'' in Gloria. Here Poulenc's orchestral writing is also at its best, featuring the brass effectively.

Paavo Jarvi makes his conducting debut with the Paris orchestra and its renowned choir.

Highlight: Beautiful, inspiring religious music.


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