Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky

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COMPOSERS: Prokofiev,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Violin Concerto No. 1; Violin Concerto No. 2
PERFORMER: Leila Josefowicz (violin); Montreal SO/Charles Dutoit
CATALOGUE NO: 462 592-2
Some listeners will no doubt admire the unarguable technical command and vibrant tone of Leila Josefowicz. But these are worrying performances for anyone who cares about the music. The compelling starts to both concertos herald different problems. At the beginning of the First Concerto, Prokofiev’s earliest masterpiece of visionary lyricism, Josefowicz nudges and smears the line out of shape; the mascara – and heaven knows the pure essence of the theme doesn’t need any – quickly begins to run. As for the austere sorrow of the Second Concerto, you only have to hear the first phrase to realise that this violinist simply doesn’t feel any. She is right to observe in her prefatory note that the two works are ‘laced with eccentricity and sarcasm’, but too much too soon pre-empts the real effect of the First’s scherzo and the Second’s dance-of-death finale, both of which go for surprisingly little. In any case the balances are all wrong for concertos in which the soloist’s interplay with Prokofiev’s selective orchestration is vital. Josefowicz stands in relation to the orchestra and its distant woodwind much as the giant lettering of her name on the cover does to Dutoit’s (a quarter of the size) and Prokofiev’s (smaller still). There’s some especially dim, recessed clarinet-playing in the Second Concerto. Yet it hardly seems as if Dutoit is urging strong characterisation from his Montreal players. Several of his tempi, chiefly the central portion of the First Concerto’s finale, are questionable, and the botched string echoes of the violin phrase about a minute in to Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique cry out for a retake. Horrible. David Nice