Mendelssohn, Sibelius

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn,Sibelius
WORKS: Violin Concerto in E minor; Violin Concerto in D minor
PERFORMER: Sarah Chang (violin)Berlin PO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 5 56418 2
In these two popular but contrasting concertos, Sarah Chang, now an experienced 17-year-old, demonstrates a generally impressive level of technical fluency. In the Mendelssohn, her tone is on the small side but suitably intense, while rhythmically her playing has some sketchy moments and the tuning in the higher range is occasionally suspect. More seriously, she’s inclined to treat the piece as a series of technical challenges rather than diverse musical expressions melded into a coherent structure. The result is that while the notes are there, the reason why they are there is not always apparent. Similarly, the epic stresses and strains of the Sibelius Concerto tend to be ironed out, and though Chang is at pains to follow precisely the markings (accents and so forth) with which the composer liberally sprinkles the solo part, a sense of identification with the emotional heights and depths of the music is absent. Under Jansons, the orchestral tuttis have more energy. Indeed, he proves a passionately supportive accompanist throughout this live performance, though the tempo for the finale (a ‘polonaise for polar bears’, as the musicologist Donald Tovey unforgettably called it) is on the fast side of Sibelius’s metronome marking. George Hall