The Romantic Violin Concerto 8: Vieuxtemps

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COMPOSERS: Vieuxtemps
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Violin Concertos Nos 4 & 5; Fantasia appassionata, Op. 35
PERFORMER: Viviane Hagner (violin); Royal Flemish Philharmonic/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67798

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When Hyperion’s Romantic Violin Concerto series was first planned, the name of Vieuxtemps must have been one of the first on the list. In the mid-19th century he took on Paganini’s mantle of ‘greatest living violinist’, and trod the same path of virtuoso-composer.

Since his focus was the violin (occasionally the viola), his works have struggled to retain the same prominence as those of composers who cast their nets more widely. This is a pity, as they are every bit as rewarding as the handful of old war-horses that dominate the repertoire of many of today’s violinists.

Of the two concertos presented here, the Fourth shows the influence of Beethoven and is, as Berlioz observed, virtually a symphony with violin solo. It is also a work of some daring that may have given Bruch an idea or two, though arguably makes better use of them.

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The lyricism of Fifth Concerto is more pervasive, with the movements running together in the manner of Liszt’s First Piano Concerto. Viviane Hagner is a marvellous exponent of both works, as she is in the more overt technical show piece of the Fantasia appassionata. The Royal Flemish Philharmonic are thoroughly committed. Christopher Dingle