Elgar: Violin Concerto in B minor; Salut d’amour

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COMPOSERS: Elgar
LABELS: RCA Victor Red Seal
WORKS: Violin Concerto in B minor; Salut d’amour
PERFORMER: Pinchas Zukerman (violin)St Louis SO/Leonard Slatkin
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 61672 2 DDD
Pinchas Zukerman’s playing these days is very rarely of the ‘heart-on-sleeve’ variety. He projects a big sound (though not a particularly ingratiating one), and always articulates the music, especially in faster passages, with the utmost clarity. In the Elgar concerto, just about the longest work in the violinist’s repertoire and certainly one of the most emotionally charged, I’m not convinced that these technical virtues are enough to convey the whole story. The Andante, in particular, would benefit from rather keener introspection, and there’s more than a hint of forced tone in lower registers. The outer movements are more successful, though the finale’s fast sections do not capture the mercurial brilliance found in the splendid EMI recording by (the pre-punk) Nigel Kennedy; and Zukerman abrasively chops short the triumphant B major spread chords which crown the work’s conclusion.

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As chance would have it, Sony has just reissued his earlier (1976) recording of this concerto: Barenboim and the LPO cannot match Slatkin’s expertise in holding the work together (and the microphones are placed too close to the soloist for comfort), but I can’t help feeling that Zukerman fans will find a warmer heart in the older version. Stephen Maddock