COMPOSERS: Berg; Stravinsky
ALBUM TITLE: Berg; Stravinsky
WORKS: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Christian Ferras (violin); Orchestre de la Suisse Romande/Ernest Ansermet
CATALOGUE NO: 50-2516 ADD
The Berg here was recorded live in 1957 and, as a performance, can more than hold its own with Ferras’s studio recording from 1963. The beginning may be a little slow, but once Ferras gets into his stride, there’s total technical command, as well as a freedom and impulsiveness in the phrasing and rubato that is completely gripping. Ansermet sticks to him like a limpet, and in the quieter music you can hear the care that he takes over the orchestral balance in this most detailed score. When things get louder, the mono sound becomes slightly congested and overloaded – the great climax in the second movement doesn’t have the sheer sonic power it needs – but at least the forward solo balance means that Ferras is never obscured. One to have if you love the Concerto, but Josef Suk and Karel An?erl are a safer bet as an introduction to the piece.
Ferras remains the involved romantic in the Stravinsky, which benefits from cleaner 1966 sound. But even Ansermet’s expertise in the music can’t quite disguise the fact that this isn’t really Ferras’s piece: its neo-classicism needs the cooler approach of Viktoria Mullova, or the fastidiousness of Arthur Grumiaux. With his absolutely centred tone and intonation, Ferras brings a degree of passion to the two central arias that breaks the surface too often, rather than seething underneath. Even so, these come off better than the more motoric outer movements, where rhythms that should click into place are pulled around too much. A near miss. Martin Cotton