Busoni & R Strauss: Violin Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Busoni,R Strauss
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Busoni & R Strauss: Violin Concertos
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D; Benedictus from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis arr. Busoni; R Strauss Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Tanja Becker-Bender (violin); BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/ Garry Walker

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Both concertos are early works, not fully representative of either composer at their best. In the Busoni, after a short orchestral introduction, the violin sets off into passagework that lacks direction. Tanja Becker-Bender plays with enthusiasm and accuracy, and when she finally hits a whimsical melody about six minutes in, it’s charming and skittish. There’s more meat in the ensuing slow movement, although the themes are elusive and often make generalised Romantic gestures: attractive enough and seductively played, but not completely satisfying. It’s the rhythmic energy in the finale that carries it through, excitingly projected by soloist and orchestra, and helped by the bright recording.

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The first movement of the Strauss suffers from the same diffuseness, and is almost twice as long as Busoni’s. There’s plenty of virtuosic solo writing, and Becker-Bender negotiates the double-stops with ease. The slow movement shows Strauss’s melodic gift and there’s warmth from soloist and orchestra alike. That lyricism also surfaces in the finale, balanced by musical fireworks.
Martin Cotton