JS Bach • Bartók • Ysaÿe

COMPOSERS: JS Bach • Bartók • Ysaÿe
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach • Bartók • Ysaÿe
WORKS: Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor
PERFORMER: Baliba Skride
CATALOGUE NO: SK 92938

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First-Prize winner at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in 2001, Latvian-born Baiba Skride is yet another of those photogenic and glamorous violinists to have captured public acclaim especially in Germany where she pursued her musical education. Her debut disc for Sony Classical issued last year reflects a certain daring in committing herself so early in her career to some of the most formidably challenging works in the solo repertory. The results are extremely impressive in the Bartók Sonata, a hot-blooded and intense performance that operates on an even higher level of adrenalin than that of Isabelle Faust on Harmonia Mundi. In contrast, Skride’s Bach may be forthright and powerfully projected, but the spirit of the dance is less evident in the heavy phrasing accorded to the Allemande and Courante of the Second Partita. For her second disc, Skride moved into the classical period producing a lyrical and elegantly phrased account of the Mozart G major Concerto, and more enterprisingly, revealed the charm and ebullience of Michael Haydn’s relatively unknown B flat Concerto. The Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach Chamber Orchestra provides attentive support throughout the disc, though I find Skride a little indulgent in the slow movement of the Mozart. For this work, Julia Fischer’s recent recording with Yakov Kreizberg conducting the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra (on Pentatone) offers greater nuance and more variety of characterisation. Of course the interaction between soloist and conductor is even more vital in a symphonic work such as Shostakovich’s First Violin Concerto, which forms the main item in Skride’s latest release. Recorded live in Munich in April 2004, Skride’s breathtaking mastery of the technically punishing violin part is never in doubt, and the generous minute of enthusiastic applause tucked on after the end of the Finale suggests that the audience were particularly overawed by her performance. But in the cold light of day I am not entirely convinced that this vividly engineered performance warranted preservation on disc partly because the contribution of the Munich Philharmonic under Mikko Franck seems curiously anodyne. Although Skride plays both the Nocturne and Passacaglia with lyrical warmth, I find that she doesn’t penetrate the desolate musical subtext of this music to the same extent as Vengerov or more recently Leila Josefowicz. A much more convincing partnership is evident in the brief Janá?ek Violin Concerto where Skride and conductor Marek Janowski respond to the unpredictable musical narrative with irresistible spontaneity.

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Erik Levi