Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin, Piano & Strings in D minor; Violin Concerto in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Concerto for Violin, Piano & Strings in D minor; Violin Concerto in D minor
PERFORMER: Marat Bisengaliev (violin), Benjamin Frith (piano); Northern Sinfonia/Andrew Penny
CATALOGUE NO: 8.553844
Lost since the Second World War, the original version of Mendelssohn’s E minor Violin Concerto resurfaced a decade ago. This is its first recording. The principal differences are less structural than matters of articulation, solo writing, octave transpositions and changes in modality and orchestration. Some are aurally obvious; others (in his compendious notes, Allan B Ho details nearly 200 variants), less so. Manneristically milking the emotionally extended fermata, Van Keulen offers a reading short on greatness – at her best in lyric material, at her least focused in running passagework. The unfortunate glitch at 1:24 of her very first entry in the early D minor frankly unsettles.

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A stronger personality, Bisengaliev offers a technically superior account of the latter, finding memorable genius in its pages; and with Frith dazzles all the way in the Double – a performance of outstanding temperament, the Northern Sinfonia lending urgent punctuation. No suave Amsterdam sophistication here, just plain upfront, Geordie honesty. Though the fiercer Naxos sound places both soloists significantly more forward than BIS’s more naturally bloomed balance, one soon adjusts. Ates Orga