Bruch • Dvorák: Violin Concertos

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bruch,Dvorak
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Bruch • Dvorák: Violin Concertos
WORKS: Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Op. 26; Dvorák: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Julia Fischer (violin); Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 478 3544

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These two 19th-century concertos, both composed for Joseph Joachim, make for a very attractive coupling. The much-recorded Bruch receives a passionate and strongly compelling performance, with Julia Fischer delivering a dazzlingly brilliant and technically flawless account of the solo part. It’s easy to take such familiar music for granted, but the refreshing thing about Fischer’s interpretation is its avoidance of mannerism. The Finale is especially fluent, the Hungarian-inflected rhythms dispatched with dynamism.

Likewise, there’s much to admire in the Dvoπák. Fischer’s first entry, its high notes projected with razor-sharp concentration, has tremendous dramatic presence and the violinist sustains this level of intensity throughout the rest of the score. David Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra are no less fired up, providing rhythmic urgency in the outer movements and the requisite warmth in the Adagio. Yet I must confess that for all the brilliance of the performance, I found the Dvoπák a little wearing after a while. One problem might be Decca’s over-bright recording, but I also wonder whether Fischer could have given just a bit more light and shade to the solo part and allowed its lyricism to flow more naturally. In comparison, Isabelle Faust with Jiπí B∑lohlávek and the Prague Philharmonia on Harmonia Mundi offers a much more imaginative and subtle approach to the score, and the mellow recording allows for far greater interplay between violin and wind instruments.

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Erik Levi