Mendelssohn/Saint-Sa‘ns/Wieniawski

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COMPOSERS: Mendelssohn/Saint-Sa‘ns/Wieniawski
LABELS: Biddulph
WORKS: Violin Concerto in E minor; Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor; Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor
PERFORMER: Michel Schwalbé (violin); Suisse Romande Orchestra/Samuel Baud-Bovy, Frederick Prausmitz, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski
CATALOGUE NO: LAB 164 ADD
Best-known as the leader of the Berlin Philharmonic during Karajan’s tenure, the Polish-born violinist Michel Schwalbé boasts an impressive pedagogical background, having been a pupil of Leopold Auer’s assistant Moritz Frenkel, the legendary George Enescu and the Belgian Jules Boucherit. Superbly skilled in technique and musically sensitive, he was clearly a soloist of considerable distinction, and these Sixties broadcast recordings, derived from the archives of the Suisse Romande, show him at the height of his powers. At the same time, his playing doesn’t contain sufficient individuality and interpretative charisma to place him absolutely in the front rank. Parts of the Mendelssohn, for example, strike me as being somewhat bland, and Schwalbé isn’t helped by being placed too far forward in relation to the rather ragged orchestra. Sadly, the accompaniment is no more distinguished in the Saint-Saëns, although in the later part of the slow movement, there are some magical moments. The Wieniawski offers probably the best performance of all. Here the orchestra under Skrowaczewski is far more incisive with superior woodwind tuning, and Schwalbé dispatches the virtuoso fireworks of the finale with great aplomb. Admirers of refined and technically immaculate violin playing may want to sample this disc, but in truth the current catalogue contains far more compelling versions of each concerto. Erik Levi

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