Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor; Serenade No. 1 in D; Serenade No. 2 in G minor; Humoresque No. 1 in D minor

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COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Violin Concerto in D minor; Serenade No. 1 in D; Serenade No. 2 in G minor; Humoresque No. 1 in D minor
PERFORMER: Anne-Sophie Mutter (violin); Dresden Staatskapelle/André Previn
CATALOGUE NO: 447 895-2 DDD
Gaunt, severe and craggy, there’s an implacable, ice-cool resilience about Anne-Sophie Mutter’s reading of the Sibelius Violin Concerto which is mightily impressive. Collectors familiar with Ginette Neveu’s smouldering 1945 performance will find its epic grandeur rekindled here. Mutter unfolds the desolate opening paragraph with chilling resignation; her ferocious, case-hardened technique belittles every monstrous violinistic obstacle, and the cadenza is dazzling. Mutter goes deep and support from Previn and the Staatskapelle is eloquent, but here, as in several recent Dresden recordings, I’m unconvinced by DG’s much-vaunted 4-D Audio technology; dynamic range is vast, but internal balances (over-prominent horns and trombones, a spotlit soloist, and muddled woodwinds) are contrived and unnatural.

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Mutter’s heartrending Adagio (she sounds vulnerably human for once) is deeply communicative in its mingled passion and fragility. The finale finds her in defiant mood, and the spirit and bravura with which she dispatches this fiendishly taxing movement underscore the sure-footed objectivity of this performance. DG provides a welcome antidote to the overworked Sibelius/Tchaikovsky couplings, with Sibelius’s two Serenades, and the D minor Humoresque. Here as well, Mutter proves herself a worthy and distinguished Sibelian, sonic reservations notwithstanding. Michael Jameson