Berg: Violin Concerto; Lyric Suite; Three Orchestral Pieces, Op. 6

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WORKS: Violin Concerto; Lyric Suite; Three Orchestral Pieces, Op. 6
PERFORMER: Rebecca Hirsch (violin); Netherlands RSO/Eri Klas
CATALOGUE NO: 8.554755
Rebecca Hirsch has won plaudits for her fine Naxos recordings of the Britten and Rawsthorne Concertos. But with the Berg she faces much stiffer competition, and while this performance has admirable qualities, not least absolute technical security and a warmly projected sound, I find her interpretation is not quite as involving or imaginative as those of some of her rivals. My major qualm concerns her pacing of the various contrasting sections in the work. Neither the transition to the scherzo in the first movement nor that to the concluding chorale variations in the second seem to follow on organically from earlier material, and this in particular makes the calm resolution to the work sound strangely unconvincing.


Part of the problem lies with Klas and the Netherlands orchestra, who are not always sufficiently attentive to interpretative nuances in the accompaniment. By contrast, although Gidon Kremer (Philips) adopts a controversially slow tempo for the opening Andante, there’s a much more palpable and magical sense of dialogue between his own instrumental line and the Bavarian RSO. Moreover, while Hirsch builds up a considerable head of steam in the Sturm und Drang opening to the second movement, Kyung Wha-Chung (Decca) and Henryk Szeryng deliver playing of even greater physical impact, the latter (despite far less sophisticated engineering), still offering perhaps the most compelling interpretation of all.


Klas and his orchestra produce good performances of the other two works. But once again, there are more illuminating alternatives. In the Three Orchestral Pieces, for example, few conductors approach Karajan with the Berlin Philharmonic (DG Originals) in delineating the musical and emotional narrative and in the subtle balancing of Berg’s complex textures. Erik Levi