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Elgar: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata

Renaud Capuçon (violin), Stephen Hough (piano); London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle (Erato)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata*
Renaud Capuçon (violin), *Stephen Hough (piano); London Symphony Orchestra/Simon Rattle
Erato 9029511282   74:31 mins


Accuracy matters, and violinist Renaud Capuçon has it in abundance. His pin-point precision in the opening movement of Elgar’s Violin Concerto sharpens the nerve-ends of the writing in the faster passages; and where soloists often fudge and slither, Capuçon nails every note, with nothing glossed over, distilling an uneasy air of incipient desperation in the music.

He is, though, much more than a technical sharp-shooter. The ‘Windflower’ episode is steeped in aching sadness and vulnerable poetry, and that is echoed in Capuçon’s tenderly affecting traversal of the slow movement. Passions run high in the finale, where Capuçon strikes a riveting balance between a teeming nervous energy and, in the famous cadenza, searching introspection.

His playing is masterly, and Simon Rattle’s accompaniment is consistently supportive, if fussily tweaked in places. The London Symphony is its usual eloquent self, with occasional ensemble slips perhaps caused by the socially distanced seating, face masks and plexiglass screens necessary for these September 2020 sessions to happen.

Capuçon’s account of Elgar’s Violin Sonata is a major bonus, and benefits immensely from Stephen Hough’s sensitively calibrated pianism. The mix of playful whimsy and sweet lyricism in the central ‘Romance’ is deftly suggested, Capuçon’s ripe and sappy tone a constant pleasure to listen to. The finale flicks frequently from mood to mood, often barely perceptibly, and both Hough and Capuçon are alive to every bar of it.

Taken whole, this generous, richly enjoyable disc is an easy recommendation for either seasoned Elgarians or complete newcomers to his music.

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Terry Blain