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Mendelssohn • Britten: Violin Concertos

Sebastian Bohren; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton (Sony)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
CD_19075871142_Mendelssohn_cmyk

Britten Violin Concerto; Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor; Tchaikovsky Sérénade mélancolique
Sebastian Bohren (violin); Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Litton
Sony Classical 19075871142   69:01 mins

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At first I found it hard to pin down the recording perspective in the Mendelssohn Concerto, with the orchestra sometimes close, then retreating and losing power in the tuttis. The quieter passages are better balanced, and find soloist Sebastian Bohren in a more natural relationship with the orchestra, with more ingratiating tone. Otherwise, this is a workmanlike, straight-down-the-middle performance of the Concerto, which could have greater tonal variety and shape – the slow movement needs more flexibility and tenderness; but there’s no lack of technical prowess, and the finale fizzes along.

Bohren seems more temperamentally and tonally attuned to the Britten Concerto, and the orchestral detail is also better projected, right from the opening percussion figures. There’s a sense of engagement and freedom from Bohren’s first entry, and he and Litton manage the changes of atmosphere and mood in the first movement without losing impetus. Bohren really digs into the double stops in the central vivace, but misses some of the affection in the circular melody in the trio. The cadenza is a tour de force, leading into the final Passacaglia, where much of the weight is carried by the orchestra. I could have done with a more solid bass line from the orchestra at times, but the overall pacing is sure, and Bohren conveys the emotional depth of the music, with a breadth of tone that had often eluded him earlier. That carries through to Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancholique, a pleasant enough piece, but not really necessary after the Britten, which would have made a better conclusion to the disc.

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Martin Cotton