1930s Violin Concertos

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Barber,Berg,Britten,Hartmann,Stravinsky
LABELS: Canary Classics
ALBUM TITLE: 1930s Violin Concertos
WORKS: Concertos by Barber, Hartmann, Berg, Stravinsky and Britten
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin); New York Phil, Staatskapelle Dresden, Sejong Soloists, BBC SO/David Robertson; Boston Symphony/Juanjo Mena


Here are five great works, even though Hartmann’s Concerto funebre is less known than the others and is the only one on this disc that is not recorded live. Directed from the violin by Gil Shaham, with the vibrant Sejong Soloists, this poignant 1939 work gets an edge-of-the-seat performance. Shaham is as convincing in the menacing central scherzo as in the plangent outer movements, and the same qualities surface in the Berg. Here the recorded balance is contrived at times, with Shaham artificially close, and some details of this miraculous score masked. But there’s power in the tuttis, and the wind-down into the Bach chorale is beautifully paced.

Stravinsky’s neo-classical Concerto seems a world away from these fraught works, but he plumbs emotional depths in the second of the two arias. Shaham contrasts that with the spick-and-span outer movements, though the orchestral ensemble isn’t impeccable. Ensemble is also a problem in the scherzo of the Britten, one of the few places where Shaham’s fireworks don’t always catch light. In comparison, listening to the Barber is like having a warm bath, with a much-needed cold plunge in the brief finale. While this may not rival Shaham’s earlier studio recording, the live element is exciting.


Martin Cotton