Paganini • Wolf-Ferrari
Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 1; Wolf-Ferrari: Violin Concerto
Francesca Dego (violin); City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Daniele Rustioni
DG 481 6381
Paganini’s First Concerto used to be played by only a handful of devotees – even now, despite taking all the once-traditional cuts, Yehudi Menuhin’s early 1960s stereo account with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Alberto Erede (EMI/Warner) comes closest to making all those Rossini-in-overdrive pyrotechnics sound musically compelling. Since then, a number of distinguished accounts have emerged, ranging from those by Midori and Itzhak Perlman to those by Maxim Vengerov and Hilary Hahn. Yet even in such august company, Francesca Dego’s fine-spun tonal purity and spotless intonational poise are exceptionally beguiling. Her calm poise and equanimity might feel just a shade ‘safe’ if you enjoy a keen sense of surging excitedly ahead, of technical chicanery being negotiated at phenomenal speed; yet to hear Paganini’s finger-crippling stratospherics despatched with such pristine grace and precision brings its own sense of exhilaration.
The star turn here, however, is Wolf-Ferrari’s rarely-heard Violin Concerto in a performance that puts this near-masterpiece back on the musical map. Dating from the mid-1940s and cast unconventionally in four movements, there is little here that would not sound out of place in a Bruch concerto (the Second, especially). Wolf-Ferrari’s melodic invention is not especially memorable, yet Dego’s seductive phrasing and infectious sense of enchantment is such that one barely notices. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Daniele Rustioni provide expertly honed, sympathetic accompaniments and the recording creates a convincingly natural concert-hall perspective.