Scottish Fantasy; Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Joshua Bell (violin/director)
Sony 19075842002 55:39 mins
Though Max Bruch only died in 1920, he strikes one as a typically mid-19th century composer. And so he was, though his compositions mainly belong to its last years. His output was huge, and it is perplexing that he produced three works, the two on this disc and Kol Nidrei for cello and orchestra, all bursting with memorable tunes, luscious harmonies, and easy-to-follow structures, yet anything else one might hear by him seems undistinguished. This recording does both the Violin Concerto No. 1 and the Scottish Fantasy proud, and Joshua Bell, now in charge of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, proves a capable conductor as well as, when required, a sumptuous Romantic violinist. He is fully aware of the performance practices of the time in which these pieces were written, with plenty of portamento and the richest tone that an abandoned vibrato can produce. It is easy to patronise these pieces, especially the Concerto, on account of their instant appeal, but I have loved them for more than half a century, and after an admittedly fairly lengthy abstinence find them just as appealing as I did in my teens. The forward recording suits their idiom.