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Barber • Tchaikovsky: Violin Concertos

Johan Dalene (violin); Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Blendulf (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Barber  Tchaikovsky
Barber: Violin Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto
Johan Dalene (violin); Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Daniel Blendulf
BIS BIS-2440 (hybrid CD/SACD)   58:47 mins

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Johan Dalene has been making waves over the last couple of years as both a BBC New Generation Artist and as winner of the prestigious Carl Nielsen Competition. Still only 19, this is his debut recording, and yet he would already seem to possess the same instinct for long-range emotional structures as two of his very own violinist heroes – Maxim Vengerov and Janine Jansen.

The last few years have witnessed the emergence of an unprecedented number of young virtuosos who can seemingly play anything at the drop of a hat. Yet Dalene goes further, illuminating the twilight areas between the notes with exultant phrasing, and (altogether rarer) searching behind them with a musical intensity that is deeply compelling. I must have heard the Tchaikovsky Concerto hundreds of times, yet Dalene’s freshness, vitality and interpretative charisma swept me along, enhanced by an unusual degree of fired-up spontaneity from the gifted Swedish players under Daniel Blendulf.

If anything, the Barber is finer still, perhaps the closest anyone has yet come (at least on disc) to the gold standard of Isaac Stern and the New York Philharmonic with Leonard Bernstein (CBS/Sony) at their early 1960s peak. Dalene plays throughout with an engaging flair, command and emotional range remarkable from such a young player. Even the stylistically mis-matched finale, with its unstoppable moto perpetuo energy, sounds entirely convincing – it fairly dances along here with an engaging skip in its tail, as opposed to the machismo bravado of the interpretative mainstream. Alongside Vilde Frang’s outstanding coupling of Sibelius and Prokofiev, this is one of the finest violin debuts of the last decade.

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Julian Haylock