WORKS: Dvorák: Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F minor, Op. 11; Violin Concerto; Szymanowski: Violin Concerto No. 1
PERFORMER: Arabella Steinbacher (violin); Berlin Radio SO/Marek Janowski
CATALOGUE NO: PTC 5186 353 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Two Slavonic violin concertos dominate the latest addition to Arabella Steinbacher’s already extensive discography. The German violinist is heard to good effect from the disc’s start, where in a haunting performance of Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 1 the solo part seems to float in over a lush orchestra. Steinbacher’s tone is sweet, her playing poised – in satisfying contrast to the muscular contribution of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra under Marek Janowski.
Composed in 1916 when Szymanowski was still under the exotic influences of Arabic and ancient Greek culture, the music is characterised by a heady, ecstatic brand of impressionism and shaped into a big, single span. Steinbacher’s no-holds-barred approach is alluring, but a work of such strange, visionary quality does at times require more subtlety and restraint.
Her directness works well in the album’s linking work, Dvorák’s Romance in F minor, which calls for (and receives) flowing, song-like lines. She is also soulful from the start of the same composer’s Violin Concerto, and finds the sense of striving in this demanding score, originally planned for Joseph Joachim. It was written in the wake of the Slavonic Dances, something that shows especially in the dance-infused finale, dominated by the Furiant and Dumka.
This is a performance in which the soloist sounds as if she is leading the
dance, and everyone is rhythmically buoyant in the heady climax of an enjoyable and vividly recorded disc. John Allison