Korngold: Violin Concertos

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COMPOSERS: Korngold
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Schauspiel Overture, Op. 4; Much Ado About Nothing – Concert Suite, Op. 11
PERFORMER: Philippe Quint (violin); Orquesta Sinfónica de Mineria/Carlos Miguel Prieto
CATALOGUE NO: 8.570791

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Philippe Quint, Russian-born and Juilliard-trained, is a fast-rising star in the States, and deservedly so: here he’s produced one of the most persuasive and empathetic recordings of the Korngold Violin Concerto in the catalogue. His seductive tone captivates from the first note, his quicksilver virtuosity suits the piece to perfection, and he gives the work precisely the shaded, bittersweet magic it deserves.

This isn’t as much a ‘Hollywood concerto’ as its reputation suggests – Korngold sketched the gorgeous opening melody as a concerto idea years before he crossed the Atlantic, and simply recycled it for the movie score Another Dawn.

It is full of very central-European sehnsucht and one senses Quint identifies deeply with this, responding to the rapidly-shifting chromatic nuances as if thinking its colours aloud, often with more depth and spontaneity than the slick Nikolaj Znaider, whose recording with the Vienna Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev is around 90 per cent Californian sunshine.

Korngold’s Schauspiel Overture, was written when he was only 14; it’s an attractive piece, good to have at budget-price, though the valiant efforts of the Mexican orchestra feel somewhat insecure. The good-natured music for Much Ado About Nothing is presented in its original orchestration, replete with piano and harmonium, but overcautious tempos and some untidiness unfortunately prevent it from truly catching fire.

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Korngold’s complicated writing can be a headache for performers at the best of times – though in Znaider’s account of the Concerto, the Vienna Philharmonic and Gergiev transform the orchestral canvas into a jewelled Klimt-like marvel. But the Naxos disc is well worth hearing for Quint’s passionately committed performance. Jessica Duchen