Elgar • Finzi
Ning Feng (violin); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlos Miguel Prieto
Channel Classics CCS 40218 71:05 mins
The Chinese violinist Ning Feng is a technically immaculate player: the rat-a-tat multi-stopping at the conclusion of the opening movement of Elgar’s Violin Concerto is pin-point accurate and tingles with focused intensity. But Feng is a poet too. His first entry in Elgar’s Concerto quickly turns introspective, and the famous ‘Windflower’ theme quivers with sentient fragility. A dignified tenderness pervades Feng’s account of the Andante, his sweetly resinous tone suggesting the mingled pain and pleasure of unspoken, distant memories. Conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto is closely attentive to Feng’s emotional nuances, and elicits tellingly supportive playing from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. The long finale is possibly a touch deliberate in places, but Feng’s patient outworking of its transition from shaded retrospection to full daylight pays dividends – each episode has its own specific gravity, with nothing glib or glossed over. The accompanied cadenza is beautifully judged, with whimsy and a palpitating sense of mystery.
Beside the Elgar, Finzi’s Violin Concerto can seem an afterthought, and Finzi himself doubted the quality of its outer movements. In Feng’s hands the Concerto’s
opening Allegro has a crisp efficiency, while the ‘Hornpipe Rondo’ finale evinces jaunty good humour. In between, Feng spins an affectingly rhapsodic line in
the molto sereno slow movement, with warm support from Prieto and the orchestra. All said, though, his deeply considered account of Elgar’s Concerto is the real reason for buying this disc. Not a bar of it is uninvolving, and the recorded sound is excellent.