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Elgar • Stenhammar – Violin Concerto, etc

Triin Ruubel (violin); Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi (Sorel Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Elgar • Stenhammar
Elgar: Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61; Stenhammar: Two Sentimental Romances, Op. 28
Triin Ruubel (violin); Estonian National Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi
Sorel Classics SCCD016   58:54 mins

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Never have heart and soul been more elusive, surely, than in the world of Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Until now, I’ve only really ‘got’ it twice, once in Nigel Kennedy’s first recording (on Warner), the other in James Ehnes’s live performance with the Philharmonia and Andrew Davis. This team makes it third time lucky, after a surprisingly disappointing release from Benedetti and Jurowski (on Decca), for which I can only echo the disappointment in this magazine’s recent review. Triin Ruubel is less well-known worldwide, but she’s a top-notch violinist, and the fact that she spends much of her time as leader of the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra means some ideal fine tuning with her fellow players, in naturally balanced sound, for what amounts to a symphony-concerto; the non-showy way in which the soloist comes to life on her first entry is typical of the interpretation. Musical lines swell from the introspective to the extrovert and back; bravura comes to the fore in the finale, only for time to stand still in that most magical of all cadenzas.

Elgar has, for the most part, been a surprising absence in Neeme Järvi’s huge discography; the conductor’s volatility and masterly control of rubato would seem ideal for this composer. The playing from all concerned has the electricity of a live performance, and if some of the dashes in the finale may seem startling, they’re justified within the whole, and by the last sprint to glorious self-assertion. I hope this team might yet tackle the two Elgar symphonies.

Swedish Romantic Stenhammar, a real Järvi specialty since his days with the Gothenburgs, is represented by Two Sentimental Romances – wondrous companion-pieces: varied, sentimental in a good sense but not as nostalgia-drenched as the Elgar’.

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David Nice