WORKS: Violin Concerto; Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
PERFORMER: Leland Chen (violin); Arnhem PO/Yehudi Menuhin, Roberto Benzi
CATALOGUE NO: URCD 115 DDD
Yehudi Menuhin might be thought the ideal conductor of the Elgar Concerto, having been associated with the work for more than sixty years, famously recording it under the composer’s direction as a teenager in 1932. He proves, in fact, very fine, observing the myriad details as well as the grand scale of the piece, and capturing its short-winded elations and moments of intense intimacy with sensitivity. The Andante, however, is rather slow-footed and the elusive finale lacks a sense of dynamism, while the Dutch orchestra, if perfectly efficient (and not helped by a dull and backward recording), cannot convey all the precision and complexity of Elgar’s masterly orchestral writing.
Roberto Benzi, the Arnhem Philharmonic’s chief conductor, takes over for the lovely, and less demanding, Bruch First Concerto, registering as a bit stodgy where high-Romantic sweep is required.
In both works the soloist’s near-immaculate intonation and infallible tonal beauty (his is what one might call a lyric soprano violin timbre) are great assets, and his sense of style commendable – though the final dash of Zigeuner rhetoric in the Bruch, and some of the mercurial mood swings of the Elgar, are a touch too carefully approached. George Hall