Sibelius: Violin Concerto

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Sibelius: Violin Concerto
WORKS: Violin Concerto; Karelia Suite; Finlandia; Valse triste; Andante festivo; Valse lyrique; The Swan of Tuonela
PERFORMER: Jennifer Pike (violin); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5134

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With nearly 100 versions available, new Sibelius concertos need exceptional qualities to stand out. So let’s say at once that this enjoys one of the finest ever actual recordings, the richness and clarity of SACD sound revealing a wealth of detail and scale from the superb Bergen orchestra, and giving Jennifer Pike’s violin a tremendous sense of presence. And she plays it with impressive mastery.

She inclines to the bittersweet Tchaikovskian view, strong on silky portamento, rather than a crisper, more Classical manner, but without straying anywhere near expressive excess. This is a marvellously warm, flowing and passionate performance, suitably rapt and floating in the great opening, and particularly effective in the intimacies of the slow movement. Andrew Davis matches her with a rich-textured, powerful reading, though it’s just a shade too brisk to draw out the last drop of atmosphere. Pike takes the last movement with an effective lightness.

Another plus is the accompanying programme. Chandos includes a generous selection of other Sibelius, admittedly pops but played with exuberant vigour. The Andante festive and Karelia Suite are particularly fine.

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Michael Scott Rohan