In her growing list of recordings, the Dutch violinist Janine Jansen has demonstrated many assets: solid musical instincts, a polished technique and a marketable persona. At 33, she is equally at home in the breakneck speeds and gushy emotions of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto and the lean textures of Bach and Vivaldi. Her forthcoming recital album, "Beau Soir," which focuses on the subtleties of the French repertoire, is our Album of the Week.
Many listeners came to know Jansen through the sales phenomenon that attended her 2004 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. According to Billboard, download purchases accounted for 73 percent of the record’s sales. London’s Independent newspaper called her "queen of the download." Commanding playing was one factor in the album’s success; a strong iTunes presence was another. It also didn't hurt that the cover showed her in a gauzy, low-cut dress leaning seductively back in an armchair and tossing her violin over her shoulder (a few purists grumbled, even if it was downright demure by the standards of pop musicians).
Jansen's subsequent albums have been less overtly provocative, and in this case, the music carries its own seductive allure. She plays sonatas by Debussy and Ravel with the ravishing tone and nuanced phrasing that the music demands. Messiaen’s Theme and Variations -- a wedding gift the composer wrote for his first wife -- is a particular standout, with Jansen and pianist Itamar Golan engaging in a sweeping musical dialogue.
While the album promises to be a "journey through night" it only partially manages to deliver that conceit -- no matter. The varied collection also includes three very attractive and idiomatic French-inspired works by the contemporary Swiss composer Richard Dubugnon and some short popular classics including Debussy’s Clair de lune and Fauré’s Berceuse.
"Beau Soir" is available on Feb. 22, coinciding with Jansen's concert dates with the New York Phil (Feb. 24-March 1) and at Le Poisson Rouge (Feb. 28). In the meantime, watch this video of Jansen playing Fauré's Après un Rêve and tell us what you think.
Janine Jansen, violin
Itamar Golan, piano
Available at Arkivmusic.com