Elgar/Chausson: Violin Concerto; Poème

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COMPOSERS: Elgar/Chausson
LABELS: Avie
ALBUM TITLE: Elgar/Chausson
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Poème
PERFORMER: Philippe Graffin (violin); Royal Liverpool PO/Vernon Handley

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CATALOGUE NO: AV 2091
I first heard Müller-Schott play when he was a teenager, and I’ve not forgotten his intense, muscular musicianship. His EMI Debut disc of Poulenc’s Sonata was impressive, but here he is entering a crowded market. He makes a bold entrance, smoothing over those tentative first steps up the scale with gleaming confidence. This is a glossy, Rolls Royce of an Elgar; indeed the fat, forwardly-recorded cello sound is sometimes at odds with the grainier texture of the Oslo strings. Such a virile approach can work, and his Scherzo is admirably brisk, but by the time we reach the Adagio it’s beginning to pall. In Du Pré’s great 1965 recording she draws us, with hushed awe, into another world. Schott does not lack passion – but there is no transformation. His rhetoric seems to be stuck on the nobilimente setting. Even the explosive finale fails to jolt, but feels part of the same grand sweep.

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The Walton, by contrast, is distinctive, not least because the Oslo Philharmonic under Previn is on cracking form. This subtly playful, sun-lit work is fiendishly difficult and requires just the sort of powerful virtuosity Müller-Schott displays. He throws off the knuckle-breaking chords and octaves in the startling Allegro with aplomb; his diamond bright high register cuts through the dazzling wind and brass, while his final cadenza gathers tremendous momentum. He cannot match the insouciant charm and athletic grace of its dedicatee, Piatigorsky, but there’s a vivacity to his playing which suggests a master in the making. Helen Wallace.