WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1, Violin Concerto No. 3
PERFORMER: Chloë Hanslip, Mikhail Ovrutsky (violin); LSO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: 0927-45664-2
The very first thing that strikes one about this disc is 15-year-old violinist Chloë Hanslip’s sound. It is quite extraordinary in its richness and depth of tone. Mind you, she does play a 1735 Guarneri del Gesù. It was wise of someone to suggest (or accept) her recording a work as popular as Bruch’s First Violin Concerto. Hanslip has had no time to develop any automatic responses, so that she cannot do anything other than approach the piece freshly. Maybe some of the sense of ripe passion and nostalgia that she conveys is learned: it would be somewhat shocking were it otherwise. But her instinctive feeling for line and colour, her impeccable control of the bowing arm, her incredibly precise intonation and her utter self-confidence are astonishing, while a certain wide-eyed innocence, a wonder at the music, adds to the appeal of her reading.
Her account of the much less famous Third Concerto speaks of an open mind. It’s a subtler piece than the first, and far longer. Musically it presents perhaps the greater challenge. Hanslip shows a firm grip of its vast first movement, an impressive poise in its slow movement. But what’s most impressive is her clear vision of the music’s span. Sarasate’s Navarra for two violins and orchestra, which she plays with Mikhail Ovrutsky, makes for an extrovert encore.
The London Symphony Orchestra is recorded a little too far back in all three works, but Martyn Brabbins ensures that Hanslip is supported by as polished an orchestral performance as she deserves. My benchmark for the First Concerto – because it’s a more complete performance – remains Joshua Bell’s 1988 reading. For the Third, Hanslip is a strong contender for first choice given a smaller field, and especially now that Salvatore Accardo’s 1978 recording (Philips) is a bit long in the tooth. Stephen Pettitt