WORKS: Violin Concerto
PERFORMER: Joshua Bell (violin); Los Angeles PO/Esa-Pekka Salonen
CATALOGUE NO: SK 65949
Though Karl Goldmark’s Rustic Wedding Symphony is occasionally revived, his enduring reputation hangs largely on his Violin Concerto in A minor. Written in 1877, a year before Brahms’s, and a decade before Bruch’s perennial G minor Concerto, this noble work isn’t alone among the Cinderellas of the Romantic era.
Sarah Chang’s new account is typically incisive and accomplished, without fully penetrating the enigmatic soul of the work. But with such arrestingly beautiful playing as this on display, that’s hardly a deterrent. Impassioned support from Conlon and the Gürzenich Orchestra (also heard in the only available recording of Goldmark’s Prometheus overture) fully compensates for any passing lack of soloistic eloquence. Joshua Bell takes a leaner, more agile view, sparer in tone, and more urgently reasoned than Chang’s. The coupling, the Sibelius Concerto, is apposite, since the Finnish master studied under Goldmark during the 1890s. Bell’s playing here is less assured than Maxim Vengerov’s (Teldec), despite powerfully idiomatic accompaniments from Salonen and the LAPO.
Top honours in the Goldmark go to Nai-Yuan Hu and the Seattle Symphony under Gerard Schwarz. Their reading has breathtaking impact and a mix of spontaneity, allure and risk-taking that’s seldom captured on disc. The pairing, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 2 in D minor, is an inspired choice. Those unfamiliar with Goldmark’s Concerto, and reluctant to commit to a full-price purchase should try the Naxos recording by Vera Tsu; Korngold’s Concerto completes this attractive budget package. Michael Jameson