Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 5

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COMPOSERS: Niccolò Paganini
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Paganini: Violin Concerto No. 5
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 5; Moto perpetuo in C, Op. 11; I Pialpiti, Op. 13
PERFORMER: Ivan Pochekin (violin); Russian Philharmonic Orchestra.Dimitry Yablonksy
CATALOGUE NO: 8570487

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Paganini’s Moto perpetuo acts as a brief curtain-raiser, and gives a good idea of what to expect from Ivan Pochekin in the more showy parts of the Violin Concerto No. 5: rhythmic, crisply articulated playing, but a lack of tonal allure. Maybe that misses the point of a piece written to show off technique, but there is the air of it being a mere exercise here.

The Concerto begins with a long orchestral introduction that outstays its welcome. Pochekin makes a dramatic entry, but his sound lacks individuality, and he seems more comfortable in the lyrical passages, where he does have time to exploit some changes in colour and vibrato. Some of the skyrocketing arpeggios and detached passagework are near-misses, however, and both soloist and orchestra fail to engage with the charming second movement. At times their tone lacks richness and intonation sounds unsettled, and that remains a problem in the rondo finale. This isn’t great music, but it can thrill with a real sense of drive, commitment and technical control.

That technique is more in evidence in I palpiti, recorded four years later: I wonder if Pochekin may come to regret having committed himself to the Concerto too soon.

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Martin Cotton