Callum Smart makes stunning debut with the RPO
“Smart combines brilliant technique with the confidence to take risks. As debuts go, this RPO one was notable for conductor achieving a fine balance between Smart’s individualistic playing and permitting the orchestra to play at full tilt…”
Read the full review on Bachtrack
BBC Music Magazine
“Callum Smart’s second recital starts with a bang and ends in a sublime whisper… Smart and pianist Richard Uttley are compelling advocates [of Poulenc’s Violin Sonata], capturing the impish humour and the underlying profundity…The long-breathed lyricism of Fauré’s First Sonata frequently finds Smart soaring majestically with Uttley rippling away incisively underneath. There are certainly no complaints about the burnished beauty of Smart’s tone, and it is no small feat to make the overall pacing of the four movements sound so natural… Both Ravel pieces are full of finely judged inflections, from delicious use of slides in the Tzigane to the twirling whisp of notes near the end of Pièce en forme de Habanera.”
“Smart’s second recording is once again on a French theme which is executed with flair…It is an inspired idea to open the recording with Poulenc’s capricious Violin Sonata. He plays it darkly and mysteriously with fantasy, with an intensity of the bow that still has a little rawness… Smart perfectly understands this little known masterpiece from the composer of La Voix Humaine, giving it the irony which intensifies the unerring and integrated playing of Richard Uttley. This is certainly an accomplished interpretation, precisely realised. The disc is titled “La Voix” and is particularly fitting to the Fauré, as during the darkly-hued First Sonata the young man plays upon the baritone voice, shading his tone as though he were singing, without ever sacrificing expressive power for aesthetic decoration… Smart adds Pièce en forme de Habanera lightening the mood with a sublime dreaminess; not the least shadow of mannerism, but a moulded singing line with a slight hint of acerbity in the sound that I love.”
The Strad Magazine
Silk-toned elegance in a programme of French violin-and-piano classics
“Accompanied by an illuminating booklet note that captures the essence of Fauré’s A major Sonata as being composed ‘against a backdrop of heartache’, Callum Smart and Richard Uttley gently caress the finest of his early works with a cantabile grace and elegance that distil the composer’s churning emotions into a sound world of captivating restraint. By making light of the Frenchman’s occasionally Schumannesque textural density, they point up familial connections with Poulenc’s Sonata and Ravel’s Tzigane and Pièce en forme de habanera that normally lie hidden from view, whether it be the occasional insouciant gesture or an unmistakably French charm and piquant clarity of thought (albeit with a sometimes unmistakably Hispanic accent).
“The Poulenc Sonata’s delicate balance between neoclassical jollity and haunting introspection is keenly felt here, the key moment in the finale when frivolity turns to tragedy being particularly well judged. Smart’s sinewy, silky tone comes into its own in Tzigane, in which the long unaccompanied ‘improvisation’ sounds for once like an introspective meditation rather than the usual excuse for lashings of virtuoso fireworks. Finest of all is the habanera, which shimmers in the twilight as though emerging from some distant gypsy encampment, atmospherically captured in gently cushioned yet tactile sound.”
Poulenc, Fauré, Ravel: La Voix CD review – Smart and Uttley are on song
“If you need any convincing that the choice of title for this album is an appropriate one, just listen to the dreamy intermezzo of Poulenc’s sonata for violin and piano, FP 119: in the hands of Callum Smart and Richard Uttley its vocal quality is never in doubt. Smart won the strings category in the 2010 BBC Young Musician competition when only 13 and now at the grand old age of 19 is a rising star of the concert platform. His partnership with Uttley is best displayed here in their beautifully judged reading of Fauré’s songlike violin sonata No 1 in A and in the flashes of earthy passion they bring to Ravel’s Gypsy-inspired rhapsody Tzigane.”
International Record Review
“Smart’s tone is very beautiful and solidly centred…[he has] an inherent nobility that speaks to the heart and eschews any show for the sake of it.
“Chausson’s Poème is more well known, of course, in its orchestral version, but the piano reduction, written by the composer, allows for greater transparency in the harmonies, and spotlights the violin further still. Given the difficulty of the solo part, it is pleasing to be able to say that Smart can withstand the closest scrutiny, whilst getting the soulful quality of the work’s transport. It is by no means easy to bring off, but he shapes the line very convincingly…
“…the sincerity of Smart’s singing line is cause for celebration, and the recital is quite outstanding in its unique sequence and profile of a superb young player.”
The Strad Magazine
“Early on in Grieg’s Second Violin Sonata he demonstrates a delicious, creamy sotto voce and a nice line in elfin playing. There is a finely judged balance of simplicity and Romantic melancholy in the slow movement, and a degree of rhythmic freedom in the finale, bringing with it touches of wit and poetic musing.
“Chausson’s Poème has a winning sense of natural authority…The tone is beautiful, the double-stopped demands of the violin writing are handled with ease, and there is a constant blend of freewheeling rhapsody and musical purpose.”
BBC Music Magazine
“…an exuberantly assured debut. Grieg’s Sonata No.2 is the highlight…[due to] their charming handling of its sudden twists and turns, each teasing marvellously in the folk-like final movement. The second movement’s impetuous changes of direction, which can easily sound forced, are utterly convincing here.”
“…he’s already a very accomplished violinist, performing the technically complex passages in the Chausson with confidence and aplomb, and always showing mature musical awareness. His command of legato is particularly impressive; the cantabile passages in the Franck and Chausson are given emotional force through the way the notes are connected, smoothly and with varying degrees of intensity.”
“The sound basis for the young violinist Callum Smart’s very convincing debut is a selection of works of romantic character, not too popular and with reference to his personal development. Playing on a 1698 Stradivarius, he elicits a remarkably light, straightforward and warm tone.
“In Grieg’s inventive sonata, in which classical-romantic form is effectively enhanced by Norwegian national colouring, Callum finds an authentic balance between classical rigor and precision and melodic freedom.
“With Chausson’s Poeme op.25 the violinist admits to a fascination for the “its wild, imaginative storyline, combined with its challenging technical and musical difficulties, ensuring plenty of food for thought!” And thanks also to the excellent pianist Gordon Back at his side, his interpretation is really very pictorially evocative and expressive.
“Cesar Franck’s A major Sonata succeeds perfectly: here the duo finds the combination of melancholic yet playful lyricism at the core of the music. The booklet mentions Franck’s doctrine that classical structures “provide frameworks through which emotional expression might flourish” – with exuberant flourishes, just such a “framework” has been created by the duo here.”
BBC Music Magazine Rising Star
Callum Smart has gained recognition from BBC Music Magazine as the “Rising Star – Great Artists of Tomorrow”.