Albuquerque Journal, January 23, 2006
By D. S. CRAFTS
The second half brought to the stage German violinist Axel Strauss, a Santa Fe favorite for good reason. Saint-Saens’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, a showpiece surely, is far more than a vacuous exercise in violin pyrotechnics, and Strauss played it with the classically controlled passion one would associate with a concerto movement, finishing with a fury of moto perpetuo.
Sarasate’s Fantasy on themes from the opera Carmen was written for his own performances and represents the full spectrum of 19th century virtuoso technique. Strauss’ brilliant rendition was highlighted by celestial harmonics and cascading passagework encompassing the full range of the instrument.
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San Francisco Classical Voice, November 13, 2005
By ALEXANDER KAHN
The success of the Brahms was due in no small part to the artistry of soloist Axel Strauss, a German-born violinist who now teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory. Strauss’ reading of the piece was remarkably flexible, drawing attention to layers of detail through tempo modification and dynamics. Above all, Strauss emphasized the radical shifts of mood throughout the piece, from the alternately fiery and lyrical passages in the first movement to the jocularity of the third. His performance had an air of refreshing spontaneity that made it seem that the violinist was exploring and discovering the piece anew rather than delivering a pre-packaged interpretation of a great masterwork.
Strauss’ artistry was infectious, and the orchestra responded with a solid yet subtle accompaniment. The beginning of the second movement was particularly noteworthy for its expansive opening oboe solo, played with wonderful expression by principal Margot Golding. Throughout the concerto the ensemble played with impressive dynamic range, matching the shifts of mood suggested by Strauss. Music Director Alasdair Neale kept his ear keenly on the soloist and thus safely guided the orchestra through the many rubatos taken by the soloist.
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Tuscaloosa News, February25, 2004
by RICHARD RAND
Strauss did likewise in the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and his noble command of the violin brings out still other kinds of operatic power. He performs as a virtuoso and a teacher. As a virtuoso, he played with a rich, warm tone straight from the heart, with flawless intonation and phrasing and with a fluent nobility of line that sustained itself from first to last. This is almost impossible to achieve.
The challenge of Beethoven’s solo part lies in its total exposure. Unlike, Tchaikovsky concerto, Beethoven’s gives the soloist no relief -- no large orchestral backup in which to hide. But Strauss worked this exposure to the greatest advantage, letting every note speak without the slightest sacrifice of fluency, clarity, warmth or nuance of phrase. He plays like Nathan Milstein.
San Francisco Classical Voice, February 10, 2004
By BENJAMIN FRANDZEL
The sonata is one of those forms that forever attract composers to make a Big Statement, to test the limits of their abilities as musical architects and expressive artists. It still yields results for modern composers, especially when the music is given to artists at the level of violinist Axel Strauss and pianist Mack McCray, performing Friday at the San Francisco Conservatory's Hellman Hall, where both teach.
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Napa Valley Register, April 3, 2003
Soul-stirring German violinist sparks symphony's fiery finale
By L. PIERCE CARSON
A splendidly strong and committed young German violinist provided the spark that ignited the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra's glowing finale to the 2002-2003 concert season Tuesday night.
Tuesday night's concert not only served to introduce subscribers to the formidable talents of guest artist Axel Strauss, but allowed for celebration in knowing that the orchestra was playing its final concert in the acoustically challenged Chardonnay Hall at Napa Valley Expo.
A current member of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty and the first German to win the prestigious Naumberg Violin Award, the talented twentysomething presented a ravishingly ethereal reading of Ralph Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending," an early 20th century musical interpretation of a George Meredith poem of the same name.
With maestro Raboy and ensemble providing radiant accompaniment, Strauss provided a wonderfully serene reading of this exquisite work. Full of pastoral joy, the violinist's charismatic solo soared with beautifully sustained pianissimo playing at the opening and close.
The piece contains a spirited passage detailing the flight of the lark as it disappears into space. The poet wrote: "...ever winging up and up, our valley is his golden cup, and he the wine which overflows, to lift us with him as he goes." With Strauss serving as guide, the audience was transported to another plane. Here was rapture indeed.
With its seemingly improvisatory solo introduction, Ravel’s "Tzigane" demands an inspirational performance. Strauss was ideally cast, catching the incendiary atmosphere of this elusive piece with natural affinity. A distinguished orchestral contribution made it all the more special.
The back-to-back efforts by Strauss were exceptionally strong and stimulating, yet, at the same time, tender and full of fantasy.
Napa Valley Register, April 1, 2003
Napa children meet virtuoso violinist
By HEATHER OSBORN
Young musicians -- spellbound -- watched a private performance Monday afternoon by award-winning violinist Axel Strauss, who performs tonight in the Napa Valley Symphony's last concert of the season.
At one point, Strauss plucked strings with two hands that chased each other across the instrument, creating a mesmerizing melody of highs and lows that seemed to defy reality.
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The Cincinnati Enquirer, January 7, 2002
By NICOLE HAMILTON
Robert Schumann’s dark Violin Concerto in D minor, performed by guest artist Axel Strauss
Schumann composed the concerto in the later part of his life as he struggled with mental illness … There is a restlessness to the first movement that Mr. Strauss captured beautifully. The young German violinist’s interpretation was not only an awesome display of technical mastery but a lesson on just how far musical sensitivity can take a piece. Clearly – in this case – a long way.
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Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 22, 2001
German violinist charms with glorious tones in recital
By WILMA SALISBURY
German violinist Axel Strauss made a superb first impression in his Cleveland debut recital Wednesday night at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Winner of the 1998 Naumburg Violin Award, the 27-year-old virtuoso played with such ease that the music seemed to pour naturally from his beautiful Pressenda violin.
Playing most of his demanding repertoire from memory, Strauss communicated the profound joy of serious music and the buoyant spirit of light pieces. Since the museum neglected to provide program notes, the artist charmed and informed the audience with a few well-chosen words about the music.
… Audience members gave a well-deserved standing ovation to the artists, who responded with two delightful encores.
San Diego Reader, January 11, 2001
He Took the Right Model
By JONATHAN SAVILLE
The La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s invaluable Discovery Series offered a spectacular double discovery in the concert by violinist Axel Strauss and pianist Andrew Russo.
Both are artists of technical brilliance and emotional intensity. They were superbly matched collaborators and their joint recital was thrilling…
Strauss clearly is fond of unusual programming… [One] does not often hear Enesco’s Opus 25 Violin Sonata on concert programs – although, in fact, San Diego concertgoers encountered this wonderful work only last year, in a fine SummerFest performance by Robert McDuffie and Christopher O’Riley. I had not thought I would hear the Enesco Sonata so soon again, nor in a performance that marginally outshone the dazzling, impassioned reading on that SummerFest concert.
What Strauss and Russo had, even more than their predecessors, was a fiery freshness and an imaginative daring, as they plunged into Enesco’s rhapsodic, gypsy-inspired score…
Strauss played one work without his collaborator, the famous Chaconne from Bach’s D Minor Partita for Unaccompanied Violin. It was, in fact, this piece with which he introduced himself to the Sherwood audience, a bold move indeed, for such a performance exposes the precise degree of a violinist’s technique and musicianship.
Strauss must have thought he had no weaknesses to hide, and he was right.
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Union-News, November 20, 2000
By CLIFTON J. NOBLE JR.
Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor featured the golden virtuosity of soloist Axel Strauss, who brought to bear a grand, steely sound with tenderness at its heart in his graceful journey through the piece. The young German-born violinist let Mendelssohn’s eloquent melodic lines speak for themselves. He eschewed any hint of inappropriate sentiment, thereby striking a more expressive and sincere emotional chord in his listeners and his orchestral colleagues.
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 25, 2000
Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, violinist earn explosive applause
By WILLIAM KERNS
With [conductor] Schram on the podium and 27-year-old German violinist Axel Strauss [performing Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1]…, rewarded with one of the past several years’ loudest and most spontaneous standing ovations, the orchestra’s concert … left an appreciative audience buzzing with positive energy even after multiple curtain calls…
What an incredible future this young violinist is assured.
The Salt Lake Tribune, January 10, 2000
By JEFF MANOOKIAN
Violinist Axel Strauss claimed the spotlight for a strong rendering of Wieniawski’s Violin Concerto No. 1. Strauss quickly established that he is a virtuoso to be reckoned with. But amid his technical acumen, there was a genuine musician. His interpretive prowess was delightful.
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Newsday, July 1, 1999
Still Magical and Still Free
By PATRICK GILES
Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, Open Air in Central Park, NYC
New York Chamber Symphony
Robert Mann, conductor
Mozart’s Concerto in A for Violin offered a showcase for the 1998 Naumburg winner, 25-year-old violinist Axel Strauss. Despite the humidity, which played havoc with the strings (between movements, the soloist had so much trouble tuning he mock-seriously offered his violin to [conductor] Robert Mann for help), Strauss made an impressive showing. He demonstrated commendable agility in the brisk passagework of the Allegro aperto. In the final, lengthy rondo, the movement’s architecture was clearly delineated. But sometimes musicians show what they’re really made of when there’s no virtuosity to hide behind, and in the Adagio, Strauss eloquently caught the yearning ardour, so characteristic of Mozart, that throbs through the center of this concerto.
The News & Observer, September 13, 1999
Lessons to listen by
By ROY C. DICKS
The showcasing of an exceptionally talented young soloist made the first concert of the North Carolina Symphony’s Durham season at the Carolina Theater a vibrant, exciting event…
The second half consisted of the grandly scaled Violin Concerto by Aram Khachaturin. First performed in 1940, the concerto requires almost superhuman intensity and virtuosity from the soloist. This loosely structured piece…can be emotionally satisfying and thrillingly stimulating in the right hands.
The young German violinist Axel Strauss met the challenge head-on with steely confidence and blazing technique.
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New York Times, November 21, 1998
Rugged to Romantic, A Prizewinner’s Range
By ALLAN KOZINN
Axel Strauss, the 24-year-old German violinist who won the Naumburg Competition this year, played a wide-ranging program on Monday evening as part of his prize.
His playing left no doubt that he is ready for the stage…
…he soared easily through rapid flourishes and details, and he played them with the uncommonly sweet tone and judicious use of portamento that was favored by violinists in the early decades of the century.
San Francisco Classical Voice, December 4, 1998
Violinist Axel Strauss Totally Fulfilling
By STUART CANIN
Dear Reader: The sky is not falling, the earth is maintaining its orbit, and all’s well with the world, at least last Friday at Herbst Theater. The reason for my exhilaration and inner contentment is very simple: a wonderful young violinist, 24 year-old Axel Strauss, aided by a superb pianist, Rohan de Silva, taught an admiring audience that “dumbing down” classical music is not the only game in town.
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The Strad, 1995
By HENRY ROTH
Axel Strauss, a powerful violinist, presented an attractive stage image, and met the digital challenges of Wieniawski’s Theme and Variations Op.15 with some of the competition’s most effective virtuosity.
The Evening Post, Skopje/Macedonia, 1995
With the performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances, in the manner of a dishevelled romantic gypsy, charming Axel Strauss caused a delirium.
Hamburger Abendblatt, Hamburg/Germany, 1994
A Young, Magical Violinist in the Musikhalle
Axel Strauss effortlessly jumped over the virtuoso hurdles of Paganini’s First Violin Concerto. He brought across the folklore within Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen with requisite, fully romantic charm.
Daniel Barenboim, 1993
I know and treasure Axel Strauss as a very sensitive musician who has complete command of his instrument.
Romania libera, Bucharest/Romania, 1991
Axel Strauss offered us an exemplary interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. It made such an impression on us, we would dare to rank it with the performance of the great Henryk Szeryng.
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