The Classical Album 1
"The Classical Album 1" is due for release through EMI Premier Classical.
This is Vanessa Maeís second album for EMI and is the first of a new
classical series. With accompaniment provided by the charismatic Russian
conductor Victor Vedetov and the world famous London Symphony Orchestra,
this album contains some of
he most beautiful and heartfelt pieces of music for violin
- J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 3 in E for Solo Violin
1. I. Preludio
2. II. Loure
3. III. Gavotte En Rondeau
4. IV. Menuet I
5. V. Menuet II
6. VI. Bouree
7. VII. Gigue
- Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
8. Scherzo in C Minor for Violin and Piano
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
9. Romance No. 2 in F for Violin and Orchestra Op. 50
- Max Bruch (1838-1920)
Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra Op. 46
10. 1st Movement Introduction - Grave
11. Adagio Cantabile (on 'Thro' the Wood Laddie' / `Auld Rob Morris')
12. 2nd Movement - Allegro (on 'Hey the Dusty Miller')
13. 3rd Movement - Adagio
14. Andante Sostenuto (on 'I'm a Doun for Lack O'Johnnie')
15. 4th Movement, Finale - Allegro Guerriero (on 'Scots Wha Hae')
- Vanessa-Mae / Traditional Scottish Folk Song
16. 'I'm a Doun for Lack O'Johnnie (A Little Scottish Fantasy)
Bachís "Partita No. 3 in E for Solo Violin"
This piece is only her violin, unaccompanied by any other instruments. It is divided into seven sections,
in total about 16 minutes. This is the earliest of the works on this album. "Bach Street Prelude" on STORM
is a techno-acoustic version of part of this piece.
Brahm's "Scherzo in C Minor for Violin and Piano"
This piece is her violin backed by piano. (5:18). It was composed by Brahms as the first part of a Sonata
(four-movememt work) for a child-prodigy violinist of the mid-1800s, Joseph Joachim. The other parts of
the sonata, not heard on this album, were composed by Robert Schumann and his pupil Albert Dietrich.
"Scherzo" means fast, and this is a lively work. This Brahms composition was later published under the
name "Sonata Movement", and is called by that name on Sarah Chang's album (see below).
The pianist, Pamela Nicolson, is Vanessa-Mae's mother.
Here is a MIDI of the Brahm's Scherzo movement..
Beethovenís "Romance No. 2 in F for Violin and Orchestra"
Although Beethoven was earlier than Brahms, this piece is after it on this album because it is orchestral
music and sounds better between the Brahms violin-and-piano work and the large-orchestra "Scottish
Fantasy". (8:22). Beethoven wrote only a few works for violin. This work and Romance No. 1 were his
earlier works, before the longer and more complex Violin Concerto which Vanessa-Mae recorded on her
third album. The Romance No. 2 in F might have been written as a slow (2nd) movement to an earlier,
unfinished Violin Concerto.
Vanessa-Mae's intrepretation of this work is unconventional. I had heard a few comments, both positive
and negative, and after hearing it performed by another violinist I understand why. (My other CD is by
Japanese violinist Takako Nishizaki, on the Naxos label.) I haven't yet had time to study all the ways in
which the performances differ, but in general Vanessa-Mae's is less slow and more forceful than Takako
Nishizaka's. The track is 8:22 on Vanessa-Mae's CD, but 9:48 on the Naxos recording, because
Vanessa-Mae plays faster. (BTW, this Naxos-label recording is a very good album, especially for a
budget-label production. It has Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Beethoven's Romances No. 1 and No. 2
for Violin, all performed by Takako Nishizaki with the Slovak Philharmonic in 1988. It's interesting to hear
how these performances of the Beethoven Violin Concerto and Romance No. 2 differ from Vanessa-Mae's
recordings; and at only US$6.40 it was a great value.)
Here is a MIDI of this piece..
Max Bruch's "Scottish Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra"
This is the most modern piece on this album except for Vanessa-Mae's pop song, composed in 1879. It is
by a German composer but based on old Scottish folk music. It was also written for the famous violinist
Joseph Joachim, by that time 48 years old. The full work is quite long and in four movements so
Vanessa-Mae performs only excepts from it: six tracks which are about 26 minutes in total. Each of the four
movements is based on a different Scottish folk song. It starts off with a slow, solemn introduction,
evocative of the fog rolling through the Scottish moors. The second movement is a happy dance, "The
Dusty Miller". The third movement, is based on "I'm a Doun for Lack of Johnnie" (as is her pop song); it
is a romantic tune evoking feelings of lost love. The fourth movement based on "Scots wha hae wi'
Wallace bled", is a dramatic finale. The large orchestra provides a rich background. For my tastes, this is
the best music on this album.
Iím a-Doun for Lack OíJohnnie
This is Vanessa-Maeís own composition, which is based on the same old Scottish ballad as the third
movement of Bruchís "Scottish Fantasy". Of course, it has some similarities to Bruch's Scottish Fantasy
3rd Movement and it is hard to say if Bruch influenced Vanessa-Mae's composition. See my notes about
the single of this song; it is identical to the one on CA1, and also it is on STORM.(4:29)
The Beethoven and Bruch pieces are performed with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Victor
Fedotov. Her mother Pamela Nicholson plays the piano on the Brahms piece and is also the Executive Producer.
Of course, the liner notes have much more detail about all of the pieces; my descriptions are only for those who
donít have the album yet. Sound files of some of this music are available at other Web sites.
Comparison with LIVE AT BERLIN Video
Vanessa-Mae's videotape "LIVE AT THE BERLIN PHILHARMONIE" was recorded from her Classical
Tour at about the same time CLASSICAL ALBUM 1 was recorded. The cover photos are almost the same,
and they are about the same length. But the music is not the same. They both have Beethoven's Romance
No. 2 and Bruch's Scottish Fantasy, but the other works are different. Even these two works are different
performances: CA1 was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Victor Fedotov,
while the live performance was recorded with the Bratslavia Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by
Bruno Membry. It is interesting to hear the effect of different orchestras and different conductors. In my
opinion, the London Symphony is better.
CLASSICAL ALBUM 1 is mostly intended to be an "Introduction to Classical Music" for people who
donít otherwise listen to it, namely fans of Vanessa-Maeís pop music. Some of the liner notes read a lot
like a university textbook for "Introduction to Music Listening", and the pieces have been selected to
provide a broad representation of classical violin music. They are arranged in order of increasing
First three Classical Albums
The title "CLASSICAL ALBUM 1" is misleading because actually it is Vanessa-Mae's fourth classical
album. The first three were recorded before she was 14 and before she became a pop star. But this album
is the first of the new series with EMI records, and the first to be widely distributed all over the world. See
my FAQ section for more about this.
Sarah Chang's SIMPLY SARAH
The Brahms piece is also on Sarah Chang's album SIMPLY SARAH. The two
performances of this piece are nearly identical; if I randomly play a tape in my
car and this piece comes on, I really can't tell which violinist it is even though
I've heard both many times. But both performances of it are quite different from
Anna Sophie-Mutter's. It's not my favorite piece on either album.
Sarah Chang's album SIMPLY SARAH is much like CA1 in many ways, and not
only because both have Asian teenage girls on the cover. SIMPLY SARAH
was recorded at almost the same time as CLASSICAL ALBUM 1, when
Vanessa-Mae was 17 and Sarah Chang was 15, although Vanessa-Mae's was released a few months
earlier. Amazingly, it is the sixth album for both artists. (See the discographies, or About Sarah Chang.)
SIMPLY SARAH has quite a similar approach and appeal that CA1 does, more so than Vanessa-Mae's
own CLASSICAL ALBUM 2: CHINA GIRL or any other Vanessa-Mae album, because both are
easily-accessible classical pieces by of variety of composers, performed in a traditional way, designed to
showcase the skills of a famous young virtuoso violinist, and intended/promoted for a relatively
mass-market audience. However, Sarah Chang's album is entirely violin-and-piano pieces, while CA1 has a
greater variety; it has no orchestra anywhere and of course nothing like "I'm a-Doun" since Sarah Chang
remains a traditional classical performer. People who like the Bach, Brahms, and Beethoven pieces on CA1
will probably enjoy SIMPLY SARAH also.
After Classical Album 2 was announced as CHINA GIRL, and plans were announced for CLASSICAL
ALBUM 3 and 4 as Italian and Russian themes, Classical Album 1 was declared to be "German music".
But this seems like an after-thought. It is true that Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Bruch all lived in what is
now Germany and Austria, just as they all had names starting with the letter "B". However, the pieces
selected for CA1 donít seem much related to German culture or German nationalism. Certainly, "Scottish
Fantasy" is not a piece that would have been picked to represent German culture. Besides, Germany
wasnít a country, or even a concept, in the time of Bach and Beethoven.
Enhanced CD-ROM version
There is also an enhanced CD-ROM version of this album, which includes a four-minute video, photos,
and some question-and-answer. I havenít seen it myself.
Vanessa-Mae arranged and performed a 45-second arrangement of " Iím a-doun for Lack OíJohnnie" for a
TV commercial for Maurice Lacroix watches, which aired frequently in Hong Kong after the hand-over and
again with the CHINA GIRL and STORM album launches. It was filmed in some ancient villa in gold
off-color like the CA1 photos, and Vanessa-Mae wears a white evening gown. It opens with a caption
"Music by Vanessa-Mae" as she performs the music, then the scene cuts back and forth between her
performance and the watch, and then she takes a bow at the end. It goes back to a picture of the watch,
and the only words from the announcer, "Classics for Contemporaries", finally a text screen "Maurice
Lacroix, Switzerland". The music is a new short arrangement of "I'm a-Doun for Lack O'Johnnie", with the
theme from just after the vocals (similar to the one in Bruch's 3rd movement but with a background
drum-machine accompaniment) followed by the ending of the song. Probably it is a joint promotion
between Vanessa-Mae's record company and the watch company.
Success of this album
CLASSICAL ALBUM 1 is one of the top selling classical records ever. It sold 500,000 copies in the first
two weeks, and continues to be popular. After Vanessa-Mae's publicity tour in late 1997, it was again one
of the top 10 classical albums in the USA, more than a year after its release.