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Works by Sibelius, Stravinsky & Pei Lu

Zhi-Jong Wang; Philharmonia Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling (Accentus Music)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Sibelius • Stravinsky
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor; Stravinsky: Violin Concerto in D; Pei Lu: 4 Fantasies on Chinese Folk Tunes – ‘Drama. Beijing Opera’
Zhi-Jong Wang (violin); Philharmonia Orchestra/Thomas Sanderling
Accentus Music ACC30430 62:57 mins


Except for their tonality, no two violin concertos could seem more different: the Sibelius darkly Romantic, full of violinistic effects and sweeping melodic paragraphs; the Stravinsky drily neo-Baroque, much of it written in an almost comedic style of busker’s Bach. Yet something Russian lurks behind both. Few Sibelius scores reveal his early affinity with Tchaikovsky and Borodin more openly, while Stravinsky’s third movement culminates, movingly, in what sounds like a nostalgic lullaby for his lost Russian patrimony.

Zhi-Jong Wang certainly evinces. Thomas Sanderling’s commodious tempos in the Sibelius allow full scope for her vibrant-toned lower register, though there is no lack of brilliance in the showier touches of virtuosity with which Sibelius liked to spice his solo writing. Yet for the angular lines and pirouetting figures of the Stravinsky, she finds just the right gutsy crispness. The Abbey Road recording enhances the spaciousness of the Sibelius, yet also brings out with exceptional clarity the chattering background detail of the Stravinsky, wittily delivered by the Philharmonia wind players.

There are more emotively wrought accounts of the Sibelius in the catalogue, and comparably good versions of the Stravinsky, but for those who want this coupling, the new release is recommendable, even if the fill-up – a kind of dramatic monologue for solo violin by the contemporary Chinese composer Lu Pei – proves a rather disparate sequence of glissandos and conventional figurations.


Bayan Northcott