Beethoven, Sibelius, Brahms, Chausson, Strauss, Suk and Ravel

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Brahms,Chausson,Sibelius,Strauss,Suk and Ravel
LABELS: Membran
ALBUM TITLE: Pomes pour Violon
WORKS: Works for violin by Beethoven, Sibelius, Brahms, Chausson, Strauss, Suk and Ravel
PERFORMER: Ginette Neveu (violin), Gutaf Beck, Jean Neveu (piano); Orchester des Südwestfunks/Hans Rosbaud; Philharmonia Orchestra/Walter Susskind; Sinfonieorchester des Norddeutschen Rundfunks/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt; Philharmonia Orchestra/Issay Dobrowen
CATALOGUE NO: 223523 Reissue (1939-45)
Ginette Neveu was only 30 when she was killed in a plane crash on her way to perform in America. She made a handful of recordings, which have been augmented more recently by some live performances, including these Beethoven and Brahms Concertos with German radio orchestras. Her Beethoven is a flexible reading, not overfast, but one which doesn’t get bogged down, and she is at the same time imperious and impulsive. The nearest thing in artistic terms is the pianism of Martha Argerich, where complete technical control goes with an almost reckless improvisatory intensity. A pity about the print-through from the original tape, which could have been sorted out with a bit of technical ingenuity.

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Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt is the conductor in the Brahms, and he and the orchestra seem to be infected by the style that Neveu brings to the solo part, with her tight vibrato, controlled portamento, and intensity on every note, even in pianissimo. The slow movement has a tragic depth that eludes many other violinists, and even though Neveu is sometimes backwardly balanced in the slightly noisy recording, her tone sears through at every turn. In fact, I prefer her sound as recorded live to that in either of the other orchestral works, where it’s much more boxed-in, though that doesn’t prevent them from being completely riveting. The Chausson comes across as a miniature opera, and the Sibelius has an elegance which tempers its sometimes grim Romanticism.

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Even Neveu’s artistry can’t elevate the worthy early Strauss Sonata to greatness, but the Suk pieces have fewer pretensions, and she focuses on their qualities with unassuming virtuosity in the faster movements and unsentimental warmth in the slower ones: qualities which are also apparent in the Ravel. A wonderful reminder of a great player who was with us for far too short a time. Martin Cotton