Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor; Serenade for Violin and Orchestra in G minor; En Saga

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WORKS: Violin Concerto in D minor; Serenade for Violin and Orchestra in G minor; En Saga
PERFORMER: Julian Rachlin (violin)Pittsburgh SO/Lorin Maazel
Lorin Maazel has a justified reputation for impressove performances of Sibelius with numerous fine recordings of the symphonies to his credit. This issue of the violin concerto sees him in excellent form, as does a bracing performance of En Saga on the same disc. The solo playing of the youthful Julian Rachlin is also remarkable: his tone has great sweetness as well as grit. Unfortunately, these estimable parts do not add up to an entirely satisfactory whole. While Rachlin has undeniable brilliance, there are so many points where his interpretation seems to miss a vital structural point: his decidedly underformed first, brief cadenza in the opening movement is a case in point. Even more disappointing is the way in which he fails to capture the febrile intensity of the first movement’s close. Rachlin’s interest in dwelling on the meditative lyricism of the work has a tendency to sap the underlying purposefulness of the concerto, especially in the finale which rapidly stagnates. The best of his playing is to be heard in a fine rendition of the Adagio di molto second movement, and in the slow sections of the Serenade Op. 69/2. With so many fine rival performances to choose from, I am afraid, for all its qualities, this issue must take a back seat. Jan Smaczny