Beethoven • Britten: Violin Concertos

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Britten
LABELS: Decca
WORKS: Violin Concertos
PERFORMER: Janine Jansen (violin); German Chamber PO Bremen; *London SO/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: 478 1530

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Like Arabella Steinbacher (see above), Janine Jansen offers a similarly imaginative coupling. Compared to Steinbacher’s coupling, though, the musical connection here between Beethoven and Britten seems more tangible, not least in the shared tonality of the two works and in the striking use of a solo timpani motif in both first movements.
 
For the Beethoven Jansen is partnered by the German Chamber Philharmonic, the orchestra that also appears on Lisa Batiashvili’s wonderfully fresh account (on Sony) which she directs from the violin. Comparison between Batiashvili and Jansen’s recordings illustrates the benefits of employing an experienced conductor for the orchestral tuttis which under Paavo Järvi emerge with greater dynamism and characterisation.
 
Jansen herself is an extremely charismatic performer, delivering Kreisler’s cadenza with superb control and poise; yet she doesn’t always engage me to the same degree as Batiashvili, who reacts more spontaneously in her shaping of Beethoven’s extensive passagework.
 
I was completely won over, though, by Jansen’s Britten. Passionately intense in the opening movement, suitably malevolent throughout the Prokofiev-inspired Scherzo and heart-achingly poignant in the closing bars of the Passacaglia, this outstanding and memorable performance matches the recent account from Frank Peter Zimmermann on Sony in terms of its emotional commitment and musical insight. Erik Levi