LABELS: RCA Red Seal
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor
PERFORMER: Nikolaj Znaider (violin); Bavarian RSO/Mariss Jansons
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 87454 2
The young Danish-born violinist Nikolaj Znaider has the kind of credentials one would expect from a highly rated virtuoso. Only in his mid-twenties, his career portfolio already looks mightily impressive – first prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, studies at the Juilliard School with the legendary Dorothy DeLay, and frequent appearances at concert halls throughout the world. A debut concerto disc for EMI of the Nielsen and Bruch Violin Concertos appeared last year, but now Znaider seems to have shifted his allegiance to RCA with this most attractive disc of Russian music.
Znaider’s wonderfully sweet lyrical playing is heard at its most poetic in Tchaikovsky’s Méditation, where he achieves exactly the right purity of tone and sensitivity of nuance, effecting a magical atmosphere
and taking infinite care to respond creatively to the delightful woodwind counter-melodies that pepper the orchestral accompaniment.
Similar qualities abound in the Glazunov Concerto. This is by far the most appealing reading of the work I have heard in recent years. Znaider shapes all the heart-on-sleeve melodies with warmth and affection, but always avoids falling into the trap of over-indulgence. Once again there’s a sense of real partnership between soloist and conductor, Jansons pinpointing lots of interesting details in Glazunov’s scoring.
As one might expect, Znaider relishes the lyricism of much of Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto. At the same time, the darker, more aggressive side of the composer’s character seems to be understated throughout. Thus for all the virtuoso fireworks of the finale, one misses something of the struggle and anger implied by the music. In this movement few violinists rival Heifetz (on RCA) for sheer dare-devilry of execution, and although the great violinist pushes the tempo unduly elsewhere, his reading remains peerless. Erik Levi