Brahms • Berg

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Johannes Brahms; Alban Berg
LABELS: Virgin Classics
ALBUM TITLE: Brahms • Berg
WORKS: Brahms: Violin Concerto in D; Berg: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Renaud Capucon (violin); Vienna Philharmonic/Daniel Harding


Although Berg’s Violin Concerto is infused with a strong vein of late-Romantic yearning, it’s equally viable to approach the work from a more modernist perspective. Such a feature comes to the fore in Renaud Capuçon’s thought-provoking performance. Despite the intensely lyrical nature of the violinist’s tone, Capuçon also projects a harsher more angst-ridden view of the music, especially in the expressionistic frenzy of the opening section in the second movement. No less effective but in a rather different way is the ensuing cadenza which here sounds far more cold and desolate than is often the case, while the Carinthian folk tune that appears at the end of each movement seems drained of its customary nostalgia. Daniel Harding brings a linear transparency to Berg’s orchestral writing enhanced here by Virgin’s crystal-clear recording.

In contrast, the Brahms is something of a mixed bag. Things don’t get off to a good start with a poorly focused orchestral tutti in which the Vienna Philharmonic’s violins seem surprisingly out of sorts during the running semiquavers that precede the violinist’s first entry. The performance is certainly lifted by Capuçon’s gloriously rich sound which seems to galvanise  the orchestra into playing the score with a greater degree of involvement. At the same time, I found it difficult to warm to Capuçon’s aggressive hard-driven approach to the Finale. Undoubtedly it’s brilliantly played, but both soloist and conductor ride roughshod over Brahms’s tempo marking of Allegro giocoso, ma non troppo vivace.


Erik Levi