Bruch: Symphony No. 3 in E; Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Bruch
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in E; Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor
PERFORMER: Lydia Mordkovitch (violin); LSO/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9738
I have often wondered whether Brahms was being somewhat disingenuous in claiming that the slow first movement of Bruch’s Second Violin Concerto was ‘intolerable for normal people’. With its radiant lyricism and powerful melodic ideas, this is surely one of Bruch’s loveliest conceptions, on a par with the much better- known First Concerto. Yet performers certainly need to be aware of Bruch’s specific tempo marking of Adagio non troppo if the movement isn’t to drag unduly. Lydia Mordkovitch, taking over three minutes longer than the excellent rival version from Nai-Yuan Hu on Delos, just about avoids falling into this trap through the sheer intensity and wonderful range of colours in her playing, though the turgid contribution from Hickox and the LSO does little favour for Bruch’s full-blooded orchestration.

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The orchestra sound more committed in the Third Symphony – a delightful Mendelssohnian work whose untroubled disposition marks a welcome contrast to some of the more self-indulgent symphonic works of the late nineteenth century. Hickox generates a great deal of rhythmic energy in the outer movements and the requisite warmth in the slow movement. Yet on a much less focused Philips recording, Masur and the Leipzig Gewandhaus are even more persuasive in bringing greater light and shade to Bruch’s musical argument. Erik Levi