COMPOSERS: Brahms; Korngold
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Violin Concertos
PERFORMER: Nikolaj Znaider (violin); Vienna PO/Valery Gergiev
CATALOGUE NO: 88697 10336 2
The problem for any newcomer in these particular works is that the recorded bar is set at such an impossibly high level. The finest versions possess an electrifying frisson, a heightened sense of imperativeness and gripping intensity that raise the gooseflesh on contact.
To hear Isaac Stern (Sony) at white heat in the Brahms or Jascha Heifetz (RCA) scintillating seductively at every turn in the Korngold are truly life-enhancing experiences.
Nikolaj Znaider emerges as a deeply compelling artist, one whose winning combination of tonal opulence and glowing interpretative sincerity makes a stunning impact in the Korngold.
Occasionally, such as in this glorious work’s unforgettable opening, Znaider’s tendency towards micro-phrasing and enhanced dynamic flexibility prevents the music’s flowing cantabile lines from achieving their full, exultant impact. Yet his heart-felt sensitivity to mood and atmosphere, and the genuine warmth he imparts to the Brahms Concerto is nothing less than special.
Valery Gergiev obtains playing of virtuoso command and clarity from the Viennese players, which pays particular dividends in the finale of the Korngold. Here, woodwind and percussion detail emerges with unprecedented precision and allure.
Yet for all the phenomenal skill on display, Gergiev rarely exalts in these heart-rending scores. When the horns erupt towards the end of the Korngold, they do so with massive penetration but very little sense of collective joy in their hearts. The otherwise fine recording fails to give sufficient weight and impact to the upper strings. Julian Haylock