Britten, Walton: Violin Concerto

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Walton
WORKS: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Maxim Vengerov (violin, viola); LSO/Mstislav Rostropovich
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57510 2
Russian violinists have always responded well to Britten’s Violin Concerto, from the soloist on the composer’s own recording, Mark Lubotsky (Decca), to one of the most recent, Lydia Mordkovitch, on Chandos. There must be something about the work’s melancholic nature and hard-edged lyricism that suits the Slavic temperament, characteristics that Maxim Vengerov brings with marvellous richness to this collaboration with Rostropovich and the LSO. The cellist/conductor, of course, had his own inspirational connection with the composer and here brings out the originality of Britten’s orchestration more incisively than anyone, more so even than Hickox with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Chandos). Mordkovitch’s account, reviewed in August 2001, is excellent in its way, but Vengerov seems to tap deeper emotions and his technical assurance is second to none. It’s good to find this wonderful work making headway into the repertoire of the top league of violinists.


Vengerov sounds just as assured an artist when taking up the viola – learnt specially for this recording, apparently – for Walton’s Viola Concerto. Here there’s slightly more competition on CD, ranging from Frederick Riddle to the best of modern recordings, Lars Anders Tomter’s on Naxos. But again Vengerov encompasses the music’s full emotional weight, from its wistful tenderness to its fraught histrionics, though Tomter just has the edge in conveying the music’s bittersweet tenderness. The Abbey Road recording of both works is state-of-the-art in its sonic brilliance and truthfulness. Matthew Rye