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Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Romances

Midori (violin); Festival Strings, Lucerne (Warner Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61; Romance in G major, Op. 40; Romance in F major, Op. 50
Midori (violin); Festival Strings, Lucerne
Warner Classics 9029517920   56:08 mins


Beethoven only completed his Violin Concerto in a rush on the eve of its first performance in 1806 – the disorder of the manuscript has to be seen to be believed. Not surprisingly, what must have been a virtually sight-read premiere was coolly received and the concerto took several decades to enter the repertoire. Yet those early listeners may have been puzzled by another characteristic: whatever the passing shadow in the first movement development or the playfulness of the finale, the work is almost uniquely free of Beethoven’s trademark dynamism and stress – as though composed against a luminous background of deep, settled serenity – most poetically conveyed in the gentle variation-form slow movement in which time can almost seem to stand still.

This latest recording was made in early March under the ominous threat of COVID-19, but nothing seems to disturb the silvery poise and subtle expressiveness Midori draws from her 1734 Guarnerius violin – once owned by the great Bronisław Huberman. The Festival Strings Lucerne – which, despite its title includes the full complement of winds and timpani – respond with precision and warmth under the direction of their leader Daniel Dodds, while Beethoven’s two delectable Romances, Opp. 40 and 50, are delivered with equal elegance and intimacy in a well-balanced recorded acoustic.

Listeners will have their own favourite recording of the concerto from the many dozens of contrasting great performances released over the last century, but this one is highly recommendable.

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Bayan Northcott