Brahms: Violin Concerto in D

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D
PERFORMER: Itzhak Perlman (violin); Berlin PO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 7 54580 2 DDD
Barenboim and Perlman make an ideal partnership on this excellent new recording. What makes it so interesting is that each artist acts as a foil for the other. Barenboim’s priorities are architectural; you feel from the very opening his grasp of the work’s massive proportions.

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The opening is deliberate and spacious – almost too spacious, one might think, but it allows Barenboim to build a tremendous sense of gathering tension. Into this severe, Classical design Perlman brings a peculiar nervous energy, which reveals the more inward and poetic aspects of the piece.

Two qualities of his playing stand out in particular: the wonderfully incisive articulation – particularly at his opening entry, which is flung out in a kind of controlled fury – and the expressive quality of his tone, with vibrato used relatively sparely. The contrast between Perlman’s nervous intensity and the monumental yet beautifully blended tones of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is stirring. But even more impressive is the way the joins between the two are dovetailed by the performers, who clearly have an instinctive rapport.

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The result is a gripping performance, tightly controlled but full of light and shade. Occasionally Perlman appears to be just a touch over prominent in the recording, which in other respects is first rate. Ivan Hewett