WORKS: Violin Concerto; Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Kristóf Baráti (violin), Gábor Farkas (piano); Philharmonie Zuidnederland/Otto Tausk
CATALOGUE NO: 95006 BR
The centrepiece of this welcome new recording of Erich Korngold is a live performance in Eindhoven of his increasingly popular Violin Concerto. It quickly shows that the Hungarian violinist Kristóf Baráti has a laser-sharp feel for the style this music really demands. Too many recordings of the work, composed in 1945 when Korngold was a well-established Hollywood composer, offer soggy, exaggerated accounts, seeming to believe that Korngold equals film music equals schmaltz; it’s soon clear that Baráti, thankfully, has no time for such misguided notions.
The very start seems a little fitful, with some exaggerated surges, but it quickly settles into a technicolor account with splendidly taut rhythms. Baráti’s bright, forward, searing tone, high adrenaline and lack of extraneous nonsense brings out the heroic qualities in the work; this feels like a macho performance in the best sense (and that is evident even before you spot that the soloist’s t-shirt on the cover carries the word ‘toughness’). Korngold is such a control freak in the way he writes his scores that extra sugar on top can easily distort the flavour; here, at last, that does not happen, and the thrills can come blazing through.
The Violin Sonata can be a tricky piece to pull off. Written when the composer was 15 for the superstar duo of Carl Flesch and Artur Schnabel, it can feel as if the wunderkind wanted to cram an entire orchestra into two instruments. Baráti and the superb pianist Gábor Farkas together produce an exceptionally convincing interpretation, never daunted by its technical challenges and able to mingle a musical straight-and-narrow – which helps the sometimes sprawling ambition of the piece to cohere – with huge emotional intensity and gorgeously lustrous tone.