Sibelius/Nielsen: Violin Concertos

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Sibelius/Nielsen
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Violin Concertos
PERFORMER: Maxim Vengerov (violin); Chicago SO/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: 0630-13161-2
This new release finds Vengerov less chilly than of late (for example, his Tchaikovsky or Glazunov). His lyricism is involving, and his ruminating passages and adagios have outstanding expressive intensity. For emotionally charged pathos and gravity, the slow movements are in their own way quite perfect, offering sustained phrasing, arching melody and cadential poise equal to the best, and infused by a compelling breadth of sound. Against this, however, Vengerov’s bowing control and finger technique isn’t what it could be. An impure, hairy tone (long notes, phrase endings), awkward slides and shifts, occasionally off-centre pitch, and fluctuating intonation in some of the double-stop passages all sound like the unwanted slips and errors of a studio first take. Less worrying – on the contrary a special pleasure – is Barenboim’s stylistically responsible, musically balanced support, plus the finely detailed, quality response of the Chicago Symphony – the orchestra that was behind Heifetz and his Sibelius (BMG). The first choice for this coupling remains Cho-Liang Lin and Salonen on Sony. Otherwise consider Vengerov for the Nielsen, and go for Kuusisto for the Sibelius (Ondine). Incidentally, if you’re looking for candidates for another member of the Addams Family, the inlay cover should offer scope – it has to be one of the worst photographs of the year. Ates Orga