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A performance of Korngold’s Violin Concerto and Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Bernstein • Korngold
Korngold: Violin Concerto; Bernstein: Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’
Liza Ferschtman (violin); Prague Symphony Orchestra/Jiri Malát; Het Gelders Orkest/Christian Vásquez
Challenge Classics 72755

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Written around nine years apart in mid-20th- century USA, these concertos complement one another surprisingly well. Both composers of Jewish immigrant heritage – though very contrasting ones – each had a strongly individual voice and refused to compromise amid changing fashions. Here fairly different performances from separate occasions are united by the absolutely splendid playing of Liza Ferschtman.

The Korngold – often erroneously regarded as soggy swoon rather than virile swashbuckle – receives a fairly heart-on-sleeve interpretation, with extrovert and energetic qualities to balance any hint of excessive swoop. In this live performance, Ferschtman’s sound is big and rich, full of personality and fizzing with ideas, but she’s also capable of that special trick of melting while maintaining poise and elegance. The last movement comes over as barn dance par excellence and the Prague Symphony Orchestra with Jiri Malát are sympathetic partners.

The Bernstein Serenadecan be a problem piece every bit as much as the Korngold – probably more, since its references to Plato may require some explanation. Experienced simply as pure music, it’s a mixed bag with a wide variety of stylistic references that perhaps do not always integrate with total success. Again, though, Ferschtman’s playing makes the most of its strengths, eloquent, flexible and fleet-fingered. The Gelders Orkest under Christian Vásquez, though, does not sound quite at ease, especially in the jazzy finale (‘Socrates: Alcibiades’). But I look forward to hearing lots more from Ferschtman.

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Jessica Duchen