Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2
Franziska Pietsch (violin); Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin/Cristian Macelaru
After the surprise of one apparent outsider shooting to the top of the Prokofiev list – Rosanne Philippens with the excellent St Gallen Symphony Orchestra and Otto Tausk (see the January issue) – it’s back to business and programming as usual. Franziska Pietsch has been described as the ‘Anne-Sophie Mutter of East Germany’, and here she gives performances of the two concertos – and nothing else. You would be happy enough to hear this in the concert hall but it doesn’t justify a place in a crowded CD market.
The performances verge on what Shostakovich dismissively called ‘mezzo-fortist’ playing. Pietsch is almost too much the conscious soloist at the start of both works – straining to keep the dynamics down in what should be the all-ethereal opening of No. 1, nudging the phrases too much for the necessary air of wintry numbness at the start of the Second.
Pitch and articulation are never in doubt, but there’s too much acid in the tone even for Prokofiev and sometimes a lighter or spikier tread is needed, especially at the Stravinskyesque heart of the Second’s first movement, from Pietsch’s partnership with the perfectly decent Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Cristian Macelaru. Best, perhaps, are the two exciting builds in the finale of No. 1, but then the interpretation shoots itself in the foot by failing to dematerialise properly in the quiet coda. You’ll also need to have the volume at a low level – the sound is too much in-your-face, though decently balanced.