Brahms, Schumann: Violin Concerto,Fantasie for Violin and Orchestra, transcr. Kreisler

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schumann
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Violin Concerto,Fantasie for Violin and Orchestra, transcr. Kreisler
PERFORMER: Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin)New York Philharmonic/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: 457 075-2
It’s more than 15 years since Anne-Sophie Mutter, then still in her teens, recorded the Brahms with Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Her interpretation has certainly matured meanwhile, though some may miss the comparative simplicity of that earlier performance. There are moments – notably the second main theme of the opening movement – where the expressive intensity of the playing now comes dangerously near to being self-indulgent. At the same time, though, there are passages where, without a trace of affectation, Mutter manages to imbue every small phrase with meaning; and in the finale – significantly faster than on that earlier recording – Brahms’s gypsy-style writing is projected with admirable energy.

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The inclusion of Schumann’s rarely heard late Fantasy for violin and orchestra should have been a significant bonus. Alas, it is performed in a version by Fritz Kreisler which is a travesty of the original – the work of a genius recomposed by a hack. Not a single bar is left untouched, and the whole thing, with Kreisler’s perky trumpet parts, sounds like some failed Johann Strauss polka. Those who argue that Schumann’s late music shows a sad decline in his creative powers will find all the ammunition they need here. Misha Donat