WORKS: Violin Concerto in A minor
PERFORMER: Maxim Vengerov (violin), Revital Chachamov (piano); New York PO/Kurt Masur
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-96300-2
Though no stranger to the concert hall, Dvorák’s Violin Concerto has always been overshadowed by the B minor Cello Concerto. Dvorák himself is reputed to have preferred his Violin Concerto, but commentators have often given it a hard time, tending to carp at the way in which the return of material in the first movement is curtailed to form a link to the marvellous slow movement. I’m not convinced that listeners have ever had a problem with this – after all, the violin is rarely silent after the arresting opening and the tensions generated are not suited to an over-long movement; moreover, the bridge to the slow movement is one of the most poetic passages in any Romantic violin concerto.
The approach of both Masur and Vengerov on this new recording is full-bloodedly Romantic, which pays superb dividends in the performance of the slow movement, one of the finest available. In the outer movements things are less happy: in the first, markings asking for a reduction in volume are read as an excuse to slow down, and the finale, though set at a sound basic tempo, is amiable rather than infectious, a pity since Masur lavishes much detail on the orchestral accompaniment and Vengerov’s tone is always a delight. For a more rounded, if less well recorded, version Karel Ancerl and Josef Suk remain unparalleled on Supraphon. No complaints, however, concerning the other performance on the disc, an impassioned and splendidly idiomatic rendition of Elgar’s Violin Sonata. Jan Smaczny