COMPOSERS: Johannes Brahms
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms
WORKS: Violin Concerto; String Quintet No. 2 (arr. Weithaas & Steuri)
PERFORMER: Antje Weithaas (violin); Camerata Bern
CATALOGUE NO: Avi 8553328
It was a brave decision by Antje Weithaas to take the double role of soloist and director in Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Strangely enough it does sometimes result in more of a sense of contention – or at least dramatic contrast between soloist and orchestra than in Janine Jansen’s new version with Antonio Pappano (see next review). But while Weithaas brings a commanding sense of line to the solo part, she doesn’t always manage to convey the same sense of arching continuity to the orchestra-alone sections. The long oboe solo in the slow movement is a delight under Pappano; in Weithaas’s version her quietly impressive solo entry soon makes the oboe a faint memory. Weithaas brings plenty of bravura and impassioned intensity. This is definitely an extrovert Brahms. But how rounded a portrait is it?
The multiple-strings version of the String Quintet in G is fascinating. I’ve long felt that the opening is really orchestral music, and in Weithaas’s hands it leaps into life as exactly that. The sense of straining beyond the medium is gone. The third and fourth movements are effective too, but the slow movement is another matter. It really needs the intimacy and subtle colours of solo voices. So the Quintet isn’t a Symphony for Strings manqué. If only it were as simple as that!