Baiba Skride: Schumann Violin Concertos and Phantasie
Schumann’s Violin Concerto was withheld by Clara Schumann and Brahms, who feared it betrayed a weakening of the composer’s powers right at the end of his creative life, and it didn’t resurface until the 1930s. Yet the Fantasie for violin and orchestra, also composed in 1853, was published and performed the following year. These days, it’s the Concerto that gets an occasional outing, while the Fantasie has remained virtually unknown. The latter is a fascinating piece which takes a leaf out of Mendelssohn’s famous Violin Concerto by bringing its cadenza to a close with ricocheting arpeggios beneath which the orchestra steals in with the reprise of the main theme. As for the Concerto, it has a slow movement of otherworldly beauty, though the lumbering polonaise rhythm of its finale remains problematic.
The claim that Schumann made a violin version of his earlier Cello Concerto needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. He may have suggested the transcription, but it does virtually nothing other than to shift the solo part up an octave (or sometimes two), thereby unavoidably compromising the music’s character and sonority. Baiba Skride negotiates it admirably, without being able to invest it with sufficient intensity, but her silky pianissimo playing in the Violin Concerto is a decided asset. It’s a valuable and enterprising disc.